Eating something before training can have certain benefits: it gives the body energy, increases your performance and reduces muscle loss. However, your pre-workout diet should depend on your individual goal:
If your goal is to lose weight (fat)
When you exercise, your body uses different sources of energy:
- First the glycogen (or sugar) stored in your liver and muscles
- Then, once these stocks are exhausted, it will draw on its fat stores.
If you are trying to lose weight, it is therefore best to:
Training on an empty stomach if you do aerobic exercise, more commonly known as cardio: Training on an empty stomach in the morning is also a great option since at night, you will have started to consume your glycogen stores, which will allow your body to to draw directly from your fat reserves. But keep in mind that training on an empty stomach can be difficult if you're not used to it and you need to start gradually to give your body time to adapt.
If necessary, eat a small snack 1 to 2 hours before training:
- Rich in protein if you choose long-term cardio activities. Protein helps maintain muscle mass without increasing your glycogen stock, so once this is depleted, your body will draw on fat.
Some examples: 1 or 2 eggs, 1 handful of oilseeds or 1 quality dairy product (prefer those made from goat or sheep milk)
- Or rich in protein and possibly carbohydrates if you opt for a demanding / explosive workout like HIIT, tabata or interval training, which will require a lot of energy immediately.
Some examples: fruits (and bananas in particular) or oatmeal in the form of porridge or muesli + 1 or 2 eggs, 1 handful of oilseeds or 1 quality dairy product (favor those made from goat's milk or sheep)
Please note that this snack is not essential and that you can apply these same rules to the last meal you eat (at least 3 hours before training): rich in proteins and good fats and low in carbohydrates if you plan to do cardio and with additional carbohydrate intake if you plan to do high-intensity activity.
If your goal is to gain muscle mass
If your goal is to gain muscle mass, you should always make sure to eat a snack before working out, especially if you are lifting weights. Your ideal pre-workout snack should have two components: carbohydrates and protein, with the emphasis on carbohydrates.
- Quickly digested carbohydrates give energy to your body, while keeping glycogen stores intact in the liver, and especially in the muscles so as not to destroy muscle mass.
- Protein provides enough amino acids to prevent muscle wasting and promote repair and synthesis of new muscle fibers after training.
Finally, in both cases, remember to hydrate yourself properly to maintain adequate levels of electrolytes (sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium and calcium) which contribute in particular to muscle contraction and nerve impulses in your body.