Sometimes you show up for a workout, but your body doesn’t. It’s sluggish and unenthusiastic. Exercise is supposed to give you more energy, so what’s the deal?
The deal may be that you’re not giving your body the kind of fuel it needs – and the kind of fuel it needs changes depending on when you exercise.
If you’re an early morning exerciser who bypasses the kitchen on your way from bed to the gym, you’re basically asking your body to work on an empty tank. And since there’s nothing else for it to use, your body resorts to converting the amino acids in your muscles into glucose that it can use for energy. To help your body access stores of fat instead of muscle, eat an easily digestible carbohydrate like a piece of toast or a banana before you leave the house.
If you work out in the afternoon or evening, however, you need a different strategy. Your body will be able to draw on real meals for energy, since it will have a few hours to digest the food. The ideal pre-workout meal is low in fat and fiber and moderate in carbohydrates and protein. Protein and fiber slow the absorption of food in your stomach, stabilizing your glucose levels.
Here are some examples of snacks – or, if you increase the portion size, meals – that provide workout-worthy fuel:
- Whole-grain cereal with berries and skim milk
- 1/2 whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and banana slices
- Smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit and orange juice
- Apple or celery slices with peanut butter and raisins
- Brown rice sprinkled with cheese