Pre-Exercise Fueling

The Six DO’S and DON’TS to get your workout or race off to the right start!


BY ENDURANCE NEWS STAFF

Few nutrition topics cause as much confusion for athletes as pre-exercise fueling. The recommendations of nutritional “experts” have arguably generated the greatest confusion, and many an athlete has paid a hefty performance price for this misinformation.

While we acknowledge there have been many athletes who are skeptical about our pre-exercise fueling recommendations, over the course of more than 32 years we can honestly say that we’ve yet to have one athlete tell us these recommendations didn’t work. If anything, we’ve heard nothing but glowing reports from athletes blown away by how much better they feel and how much more endurance they’ve enjoyed.

1. DO finish all calorie consumption three hours before exercise begins. Weeks of consistent high-quality training and immediate postworkout refueling builds and maximizes your stores of muscle glycogen, which is the first fuel your body will use when you begin exercising. (Note: this is the true definition of “carbloading.”) You have a finite supply of this fuel so, naturally, you want to use it as efficiently as possible. Eating sooner than three hours prior to the start of exercise promotes faster depletion of muscle glycogen and inhibits fat utilization, the combination of which will devastate your performance.

2. DON’T sacrifice sleep to eat. Muscle glycogen levels remain intact—not one calorie has been depleted— even after a full night’s sleep. It’s unnecessary and of no benefit to intentionally wake up early just to eat. If eating a pre-exercise meal three hours prior is not logistically feasible, consume a small amount of your supplemental fuel, such as Hammer Gel, about five minutes prior to the start. By the time those calories are ingested, insulin is released and blood sugar levels are elevated, you’ll be well into your workout or race and glycogen depletion rates won’t be negatively affected.

3. DON’T overeat. The goal of the pre-exercise meal is to top off your liver glycogen, which has been depleted during your sleep. Accomplishing this doesn’t require you to eat 700, 800, 900, 1,000 calories, or more, as some so-called “experts” would have you believe. A pre-exercise meal of no more than 300 to 400 calories is quite sufficient. You can’t add anything to muscle glycogen stores at this time (you’ll just be topping off liver glycogen stores), so stuffing yourself is counterproductive, especially if you’ve got an early morning workout or race.

4. DO avoid simple sugars, high fat, and high fiber. Give your body the right fuel, which means complex carbohydrates and perhaps a small amount of protein. Simple sugars (sucrose, glucose, fructose) provide unwanted junk calories; they’re not what your body wants nor needs. Also, avoid fat-containing and high-fiber food to minimize the potential for stomach distress as well as unscheduled bathroom breaks during your workout or race.

5. DO stay properly hydrated. Either of these sensible suggestions will satisfy hydration needs without putting you at the risk for over-hydration:

  • One liter of water (about 34 ounces) in the two hours prior to the start (about 17 ounces/hour), ceasing consumption about 20 to 30 minutes before the workout or race.
  • 10 to12 oz. of water each hour up to 30 minutes prior to the start (24-30 ounces total fluid intake).

Make sure you include a serving of Fully Charged with your water and begin consuming 30 minutes prior to the start.

6. DO take your first dose of Endurolytes or Endurolytes Extreme 15 to 30 minutes prior. This will cover your first hour’s requirements for electrolytes. So instead of reaching for pills when your workout or race begins, you can focus on getting into a nice, smooth rhythm.

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