Big question, answered a lot on the old inter-web…and a lot of differing views…
So here’s my five pennies worth…..
First of all, what type of training are you doing? Resistance training or cardio, and when I say cardio I mean over 30 minutes continuous at a steady pace.
Resistance training, I would recommend a meal that meets your needs, containing protein and carbs about 1-2 hours before we train.
The reason behind this, and before you do anything, you need to think about the reason or rationale as it’s known, is that we want to lift to our optimal and we don’t want lack of energy to be a determining factor in this, we want to be able to push, lift, squat or pull more than our previous session, we want our bodies to be fuelled, we want our bodies to have optimal amounts of protein in the system as we store a limited amount. This will help with recovery as much as the session itself. I know most people in the weights room have their protein shake to neck down quicker than Usain Bolt but is this optimal?….and how good is the protein shake they are drinking, (this is for another time).
So pre-resistance training it’s a good idea to make sure you have a protein and carb meal, around 2-3hrs before your session begins, this will make your post workout shake not as important, just make sure a good protein and carb meal is eaten within 2hours of finishing your workout or as close to finishing your workout as you can, most people can’t stomach eating immediately after.
Now onto cardio, from the previous blogs I showed you the results from a Resting Metabolic Test for three different people. This is where we have the potential to change what happens. I’m not saying that resistant training won’t have the same effect or an effect on RMR, because it will.
If we eat before we go on our long run or bike ride, it’s likely we will use the energy from that food to supply the energy for that training session or possibly be sick if we east to close to the cardio session. From the RMR test we saw that one client was particularly good at using carbohydrates for energy when really we want them using predominately fat at rest, so for this client I recommended cardio training in a fasted state, that meant she would have her last meal no later than 8pm, then in the morning she would go on a power walk, as this her first stage of training, running was not an option. They would then eat on their return home. Eating carbohydrates after exercise will have little to no effect on body fat usage, so again a post exercise meal of carbs and protein. The aim of the fasted exercise is not to increase performance but an attempt to change the body’s usage of stored fats and carbs at rest. If we have a carb heavy diet and do little exercise the chances are you use carbs at rest, this can only be confirmed with the RMR test. A fasted cardio session will do you no harm if it’s for fat loss, however if your cardio session is a performance based session, then you need to re-think your nutritional strategies.
If your perform a fasted cardio session for the first time, take it steady and it may be wise not to attempt a long distance, you may feel dizzy so make sure you carry a banana with you.
There is also a strategy called sleep low, train low. This is where you would train in the evening to deplete as much stored carbohydrates as you can, then have a protein and fat rich meal, sleep, then perform a fasted cardio session in the morning. There is a little more to it than this, taking a branched chain amino acid supplement pre morning cardio session.
At the end of the day/month/year, if you are on a weight loss journey, the most important thing is to make sure you are consistent with your exercise and food intake, making sure calories in are less than calories. This doesn’t mean you should be on permanent calorie restricted diet for the rest of your life. Every four weeks or so it’s a good idea to increase your calories for a week, but only increasing to maintenance level.
Treat your diet like your training programme, change to suit your current training programme.
So to conclude, there is no right or wrong answer, just either personal preference and or the desired outcome.
Till next time
Kevin has been in the fitness industry for almost a decade. Nutrition is Kevin’s biggest passion, he feels Nutrition has the greatest impact on any training plan, beit weight loss, muscle gain or performance. Having completed a Post Graduate Degree in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, he now feels more equipped and confident in his advice.