Short answer; Yes, you should eat before your personal training session. What you eat. how much and how soon beforehand is often personal preference, determined by the type of training & intensity and takes plenty of trial and error to get it right. Read on to find out why it's best to eat before you train and how to get started with planning your pre-training eating...
Training on an empty stomach may result in a greater proportion of fat stores being used to provide energy at the time of the training session. This is the main reason people often exercise on an empty stomach - thinking (hoping) that it will burn more fat if they're hungry before they start. More fat stores are used simply because less carbohydrate is immediately availability to fuel the body at the time of the workout. This however does not translate to a greater weight loss (or overall fat burning effect), rather, it results in a less effective, lower intensity and often uncomfortable personal training session.
Excess energy consumed will be stored as fat regardless of whether you eat before or after training. For this reason the focus of meal timing shouldn't be to empty the tank before exercise, rather the focus should be on optimising energy levels for the workout ahead. Eating before you train will give you more energy to perform at your best which in turn will result in a greater total energy expenditure from you workout and fat loss, as well as greater fitness & strength results.
In short, eat to maximise your workout quality and to meet energy requirements without exceeding them. There is no fat loss benefit from not eating before training if you still consume the same total energy across the day but there is a performance disadvantage from being energy depleted. So, where to from here?
- Eat 30min-2 hours before exercise to ensure you have adequate energy to get the most out of your training session - ideal timing varies for each individual and the type of workout, experiment to get it right.
- Choose foods and timing of meals that feel comfortable for you at the time of your training session - different foods work well for different people.
- Focus on controlling total energy intake across the day to ensure you're meeting but not exceeding your energy requirements.
- Eat small frequent meals every 3-4 hours spread as evenly as possible across the day. Try to time your meals to work in well with your training sessions so you don't need to add extra meals unnecessarily.
- Not sure of a quick, easy pre workout snack? Try a piece of fruit & 30g of nuts, 200g of greek yogurt, a slice of wholemeal bread & 30g of natural peanut butter, 4 carrot sticks & 40g of cottage cheese or 4 crackers & 40g of tuna. Just some ideas to get you started...
David Eggins | Personal Trainer at Drive Fitness in Brisbane