I’ve been off workouts for the past couple of months because of my back. Now that I am getting back into my routine, I’ve been researching a lot on what is the best activity, best food, and best time to workout. It is during this research that I came across important studies that talked about the adverse effects of eating before workouts or pre-workout meals.
Up until a few months ago when I was going to the gym and training under a certified trainer, pre-workout meals were a big thing. In fact, all of my gym-going friends swore by these small meals which apparently give you energy before a workout so you could power through the entire thing before feeling fatigued. Sounds right, doesn’t it? But it couldn’t be far from the truth.
Now, I’ve always been more of a yoga person than a gymming enthusiast. So I did feel weird initially when my trainer told me to eat before a workout. I had never done that while practicing my yogasanas. In fact, yoga practitioners are advised to practice on an empty stomach early in the morning or have a substantial gap (at least 3-4 hours) between meals and their practice. I did start eating before workouts, but they never really made me feel good. A few days ago, I found out the reason for this.
I was discussing my workout schedule going forward with a friend who is a certified yoga practitioner. During the conversation we happened to come across the topic of pre-workout meals. She then went on to explain to me why eating before workouts is not a good decision. I of course researched all of these independently as well.
Here are the reasons she gave me and I’ve tried to explain them in as simple a language as possible.
- Having food in the digestive system during a workout disrupts the natural functioning of the body. The process of digestion starts as soon as you take your first morsel. During this time, the body as a part of the digestive mechanism concentrates blood flow in the stomach and other digestive organs. If you tend to exercise during this time, this concentration gets disrupted as the muscles in your limbs also need a higher level of oxygen to function effectively and therefore require an increased concentration of blood flow.
This basically takes away the focus from your digestive organs to your limbs, thus slowing down your digestive process altogether. It basically restricts the capacity of your digestive system to function optimally. When done repeatedly over a period of time, eating before workouts has the effect of slowing down your metabolism and causing various digestive problems.
- Another problem is that strenuous movement, especially those concentrating on the core and ab muscles tend to move food around unnaturally, which can further cause complications in your GI tract. In some cases partially digested food may move to the colon from the stomach, which increases load on the colons and can cause complications later on as well.
- For those looking to loose weight, eating before a workout can also cause the opposite effect. A study published in the Independent UK, stated, “After eating, the fat tissue is busy responding to the meal and a bout of exercise at this time will not stimulate the same [beneficial] changes in adipose tissue. This means that exercise in a fasted state might provoke more favourable changes in adipose tissue and this could be beneficial for health in the long term.”
Personally, I never felt quite alright practicing any sort of physical activity after eating. The few months that I did it for were just uncomfortable, to say the least. There were also the problems of acidity and reflux that accompanied it. For the past few weeks that I’ve started working out again, I’ve been doing pretty well doing so on an empty stomach. I do eat within half-an-hour after completing my workout though so as to give my body enough nutrition.
For those who feel extremely low on energy in the morning or think they need to eat before a workout, try a different routine or maybe try exercising in the evening. You can probably use energy drinks instead of solid meals to ensure you have enough energy throughout. Don’t go crazy on these however, I’ve heard they also have a lot of nasty chemicals. Best to keep it natural.
If you have any questions about this, ask away in the comments. And if you haven’t already, checkout my last blog post here.
That was all for today peeps.
Until next time,