Fasted cardio is wildly popular. This involves hitting the treadmill, or some other form of mild cardio, first thing in the morning—before you take your first bite of breakfast. Proponents of fasted cardio believe this is one of the most effective ways to get ripped, as your body uses stored fat for fuel instead of what you’ve just consumed. But this doesn’t work for everyone.
Some guys have even tried pushing through entire workouts (i.e. lifting sessions and cardio) without any fuel—with dismal results.
Our advice? Leave all the fasted experimentation to the physique competitors and the pros. Your body needs fuel, regardless of whether you want to lose, gain, or maintain. Without proper nutrition, you won’t see results, and you’ll put your body in danger.
Signs you’re not eating enough
There are some clear indicators that you haven’t properly fueled your workout:
- You get lightheaded or dizzy
- You feel lethargic
- You get nauseous
- Your performance feels physically inhibited
- You get injured easily
- You lose consciousness
- You can’t break through your plateau
For all you CrossFitters out there, you might look at this list and think, “It wasn’t a good workout if I didn’t feel like passing out.” But there’s a difference between a killer workout and a prohibitive one. Even if you feel winded, you should be able to bounce back after a few minutes of rest. Without pre-workout fuel, you never reach that point.
What (and when) should you eat?
Ideally, you should eat your pre-workout snack, or meal, 45 minutes to an hour beforehand. This gives your body a chance to start absorbing nutrients and building up your energy stores. This also helps you avoid any cramps or discomfort from working out on a full stomach.
Concerning what you should eat, don’t feel compelled to have a massive breakfast in the morning or gorge yourself in the afternoon. The size and composition of your snack or meal will vary based on your caloric requirements and workout plan, but generally speaking, the following guidelines should work for most guys:
- Choose foods that your body can easily digest. Think simple carbs like fruit. You want nutrition that your body can break down and use quickly. Simple carbs are converted to glucose and used almost immediately. They’re great for a quick boost of energy.
- Work in a lean protein, like a scoop of whey protein or some egg whites. Lean protein helps boost your muscle’s anabolic response (i.e. gains).
- Also, try to work in some fat. Like carbs, your body uses fat for energy.
Here’s a few ideas:
- Morning workouts: Egg white omelet, strawberries, slice of avocado
- Afternoon/evening workouts: 1 scoop of whey protein, 1 banana
- Afternoon/evening workouts: Greek yogurt and 1 serving of fruit
The ultimate goal is to provide your body with the fuel it needs to produce results and power your performance. You might need to experiment to identify the foods you enjoy and that work best for you. But the one thing you shouldn’t experiment with? Whether or not to eat before you hit the gym or the trail. Workout fuel is always essential.