I am often asked if it is alright to train on an empty stomach. I think this is a common issue for anyone who needs to get to the gym early in the morning and eating a breakfast of solid foods such as eggs, veggies, and maybe some fruit before a 6am workout can be difficult, if not impossible, for many people. You’ll have to be up early to prepare breakfast, eat, allow adequate time for digestion and get to the gym for your training session. Even if you prepare food ahead of time, many people don’t have much of an appetite upon waking.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to people who train early in the morning. If you are coming to one of the evening workout sessions, it’s likely the last meal you had was lunch. 4 to 6 hours without food is enough to leave you in a partially fasted state which can negatively impact your ability to perform your best in the gym. Nonetheless, skipping meals isn’t a good idea and today I’ll discuss a few reasons why you should reconsider training on an empty tank.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that individuals who skipped breakfast before training had diminished insulin sensitivity as well as increased LDL cholesterol. Insulin sensitivity is important for proper nutrient uptake and long-term health as severely impaired insulin sensitivity can result in insulin resistance which is a risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. High LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, is a risk factor for arteriosclerosis, hypertension, stroke, as well as other cardiovascular health issues.
In addition to improving your long-term health, your athletic performance and body composition can be greatly improved with proper pre- and post-workout nutrition. In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that subjects who consumed a protein shake before and after resistance exercise experienced greater gains in lean body mass and increased 1RM strength over those who did not.
Another recently published study found that consumption of whey or vegan protein before heavy resistance training actually resulted in an increase in resting energy expenditure the day after training. One group consumed protein only before their training sessions and the other group consumed an equivalent amount of only carbohydrates, the protein only group had significantly higher resting energy expenditures 24 hours after their training session.
Furthermore, the American College of Sports Medicine has presented research that suggests pre-workout protein intake can be even more effective for recovery than a post-workout protein shake alone. In other words, consuming a proper pre-workout meal can help increase your strength, improve recovery, as well as boost the amount of calories you burn at rest for up to a day after training which can help facilitate reduced body fat and improved body composition.
Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a placebo group had significantly higher levels of cortisol, myoglobin, and creatine phosphokinase (CPK) after exercise compared to those who consumed a protein and carbohydrate mixture. High blood levels of myoglobin and CPK are most commonly indicative of muscle damage. Once myoglobin is in the bloodstream, it needs to be filtered by the kidneys. In severe cases, this can result in a condition known as rhabdomyolysis which can lead to acute kidney failure. This suggests that consuming some protein and carbohydrate prior to your training session can reduce the amount of muscle damage caused by intense exercise. As a result, this will allow for more intense training sessions and less recovery time needed between training days.
An easy way to get pre- and post-workout meals is to simply drink half a protein shake before you train and the remainder immediately after. Keep in mind, pre-workout supplementation can be highly variable between people so I recommend experimenting to see what works best for you. Combined with a good nutritional plan, you’ll recover faster, get stronger, and be leaner.
If you need a high quality protein I recommend the following:
The first thing I do when I wake up at 3:40 a.m. is put on my workout gear. I work 14 miles north of the city of Chicago and take public transportation to work. Lucky for me I work at a gym and since I start work at 6 a.m. I get there early to do my fasted cardio. This past year when I was preparing for the Chicago Pro I had this routine for several months and got into a rhythm of doing it and feeling good afterwards. I felt wide awake and had more energy for the day. I would do the stairclimber and get into a rhythm of side steps and changed it up to every other step with a glute extension. I do intervals and switch the level 16 for 1 minute and levels 7-8 for 3 minutes. This would go on for 40-45 minutes and by the end I’d be drenched with sweat and felt accomplished. I also noticed that I interacted more positively with my clients and members when I did my early cardio sessions and that is why I continue to get to the gym early to maintain this routine. It’s important to feel good and in a positive mindset when working, it allows for a more productive and beneficial day.
I realize we all can’t get to the gym early in the morning and many of you do not work in a gym like I do but when you find the time to do what is important to you it can be exhilarating. Do what you love and love what you do. After my cardio I shower and get ready for work and then eat the breakfast I pre made the night before. I also pre make my snacks and lunch for work. They are usually the same meals every day. I keep it consistent and that is what keeps me healthy and in shape. We have to plan ahead and prepare to reach our goals. Every move we make is either a step back or a step forward. I realized a long time ago that I never want to move backwards and have always looked at every decision as an opportunity to improve. It’s as easy as sitting down and writing down what you want. We all have goals and should never be afraid to dream big. Ten years ago I had a dream to change my body enough to compete with other Pro’s in the IFBB and over time I made it happen.
What do you want? Whatever it is, write it down and put it where you can see it everyday. Make a plan to accomplish it and start right away! I believe if you visualize yourself as having what you want, then you will soon have it.
If you are looking for fitness or nutritional consulting you can contact Juliana at email@example.com
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Body empowerment is loving yourself as you are with the understanding that you are capable of creating a better version of yourself with the right resources to guide you. It amazes me when I meet clients for a consultation and when I ask them why they are here the first thing I usually hear is “I hate the way I look” then they continue with more insults to their body. You know, it breaks my heart to listen to their self loathing. But I understand because I have been guilty of it. It has taken me a long time to realize if I want to make positive changes to my body then I have to accept myself in my current condition. I realized the moment you give love to yourself is the moment you are ready to change. So when I talk about body empowerment we have to start with an arsenal of mindset tools to break old thinking patterns. Showing appreciation for the body we have no matter what state it is in and learn to appreciate it. It’s as simple as writing down things you are grateful for. Once you start noticing the things you have and really zoning in on them with gratitude you will shift your mindset towards a more positive one that starts appreciating every part of your body. For example, every day I show appreciation for the things I have. I make statements like I am grateful for my 2 feet, I am grateful for my two legs, I am grateful for my two hands, I am grateful for my belly, I am grateful for the skin that covers my body, I am grateful for my two eyes, etc… then you can get more detailed… I am grateful I have two feet to walk me where I need to go every day. I am grateful for my two legs that allow me to sit down and stand up, I am grateful for my eyes so I can see the things ahead of me. Basically, becoming aware of your magnificent body and truly showing appreciation. You might think it sounds corny at first but as you practice this mindset you will learn to love what you have. There have been days that I’m on my commute home and I see someone unable to move around on their own or with a condition that has disabled them and at that moment I tell myself I am grateful I am able to exercise and have the ability to get around comfortably. It’s not until we start paying more attention that we realize what we have.
Another mindset tool is visualization. Visualize the body you want and continue to appreciate the body you have. Stop the negative talk and stop pointing out your flaws. Now that you are making positive changes like eating healthier and exercising your body will be ready to change. When we create a negative mindset we hold ourselves back from getting real results. We set ourselves up for failure and continue in a downward spiral of self loathing. Even though you want a leaner fitter body it’s important you give love to yourself every day. Creating rituals for yourself like exercising on a regular basis.Going to the spa and caring for your skin, hair, and nails. Learning to cook healthier and put the right things in your body for nourishment. All of these practices embrace self love.
Practicing the art of self-love, mindfulness and self-reflection: move from love, instead of self-loathing. Move with mindfulness, instead of haste. Take time to reflect so you can drink in your experiences and become more aware. To have more love, to feel more love, you need to embody love, and move from that space. You have to connect to your heart, breathe, appreciate the task at hand, and open your mind to find new ways to appreciate what you are doing. I get it, we are always in a hurry and don’t take the time to stop and see every day movements and notice the things that matter to us. Slow down and do this with every task. When shopping, prepping your food, cooking, brushing your teeth, doing your hair, and exercising, pour love into everything you do, as every single moment of your life is a moment to expand into your true state: which is love. It is one of the most healing things you can do for yourself. Too many times something happens and we get angry and we continue to talk about it and allow it to fester inside of us and before we know it we are filled with negativity and complaining and create this toxic mind set. It turns into this ugly energy that sits with us until the next thing happens and we repeat the cycle. From now on do not allow things to get to you and remember the only way to keep yourself positive is to do all things with love. I know it’s not easy, especially when you have that needy friend or coworker that always complains but you will learn to step away and remove the toxic people from your life. You know who I am talking about. The person that always complains and plays the victim. You do not have to condone their behavior. It is easy to remove yourself from the negative talk and find positive people to surround yourself with.
Now… I know this sounds like a hard task but I know you are up for it. Baby steps. The first thing I want you to do is write down 10 things you appreciate about your body. Then I want you to read them out loud. Remember, love yourself the way you are meant to be loved. Enough with the negative talk. You are an amazing individual that deserves the best. To bring happiness we must look at life in a more positive light. The choice is yours. Do you want to feel bad or elated? This love will allow you to make yourself a priority and create healthy habits to help you create the body of your dreams. So, what’s it going to be? A positive mindset or play the negative victim with a heavy heart?
As we put Christmas behind us with the relief of having some form of control over our lives we still have the last week of the year where most of us like to use “I’ll start after New Year’s” phrase. We all know after too many holiday parties followed by Christmas lunch, brunch, dessert, and leftovers the next day we need to tighten the reins and clean up our eating. The only problem is many of us aren’t ready to give up the foods that have been comforting us the past few weeks and if everyone else gets to start on New Year’s then I guess I’ll jump off a bridge too. Wait, what?? Look, you’ve already made additional holes in your belt buckle and started wearing elastic banded pants. Why wait till the first when you can get ahead of the rest by starting now?
I know it’s easier said than done, especially coming from someone who eats clean year round but I was in your shoes before and there is nothing worse than trying to restart something you fell off the wagon for and hitting the restart button. Making changes to becoming healthier and getting in better shape all take planning and preparing and I don’t expect to teach it all to you in one blog. For now let’s start with the basics and use these simple daily habits to get you going in the right direction.
Eat breakfast everyday.
Eat small meals throughout the day.
Eat a lean protein and complex carbohydrate with every meal.
Eat whole foods instead of processed food.
Drink half your body weight in ounces every day.
Prepare your meals ahead of time.
With the new year less than a week away you have to start planning for a better version of yourself and with the right nutrition and exercise plan you can look forward to a healthy New Year and fitter YOU!
I will be sharing my food diary for those that ask me what I eat most days. I prepare all my meals. When I leave the house in a hurry I go to Snap Kitchen where most of the meals are gluten free and portioned perfectly for me. For future posts I will include all foods not prepared by me and show you how easy it is to eat healthy and delicious foods when on the go or eating out with friends.
Juliana’s Food diary:
Breakfast: 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites, 2 ounces chicken breast all scrambled together with 2 TB salsa, 1 whole grapefruit
Morning snack: medium apple, 4 ounces lean fround turkey
Lunch: 5 oz grilled chicken brest (baked), 5 ounces baked sweet potatos, 1 cup steamed green beans
Afternoon snack: protein shake blended with 1 banana and 2TB almond butter, water, ice, 1 ounce trail mix
Dinner: 5 ounces fround turkey, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/4 cup black beans, salsa, 1 cup broccoli
Poor Monday! No body ever cheered for Monday the way they do Fridays but at least you can have a fresh start. After a long over indulgent weekend it’s safe to say Mondays are a good day to start from scratch. Today I cleaned up my eating, been hydrating with my water, had a cup of detox tea, and am already feeling better. I still have to get through dinner but I have a plan and am not tempted to get off of it. We believe in fresh starts and when we decide to focus on a goal the sky is the limit, until a coworker or family member starts waving temptation in your face. This is where will power steps up and keeps you honest with your goals. You can’t let every chance to back down defeat you. Every time you say ‘no thank you’ and pass on the sweets or after work drinks your will power gets a little stronger. Think of it like a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. So stay strong and stick to your main goals because life likes to challenge you.
Before I say good bye to Monday here are a few tips to sticking to your clean eating habits:
1. When making your grocery list keep processed foods off. Instead of cereal add gluten free whole oats. Add fresh fruits and veggies to keep around for snacks. Start portioning your meals and making them more frequent.
2. Replace all sugary drinks with pure clean water. If you must have something different try brewing green tea and add a little honey and lemon. Or try juicing fruits and vegetables. I know it can get messy but it’s a great tasting way to try new things. Here is a juicing site to get you started.
3. Read your nutrition labels. If it has more than 3 ingredients and you can’t pronounce them, it’s a sure sign it should not go in your body.
Overall, stick to the source and stay consistent with your meals. When you plan ahead you are likely to stick to your program. Healthy eating should be a way of life and don’t worry, everything in moderation not deprivation.