Its not uncommon to hear people talk about carbing up before a workout. This is at typical practice with distance runners or cyclists and weight lifters and it certainly helps with performance. However, if your primary reason for working out is weight loss then carbing up probably isn’t going to help you. You will certainly have a stronger workout but your carbs can get in the way of tapping into those fat stores you want to release for fuel.
When you eat food that contains sugar and starch, your blood sugar goes up and insulin is released. At this moment, your body is trying to remove that sugar from your blood stream as quickly as possible because you aren’t moving fast enough to burn it all up sitting at the table. Your body slows or stops the release of fat for fuel because you already have too much floating around and insulin is transporting what you’ve just eaten to muscle and fat cells. There is no reason to release more fuel.
As I mentioned, the readily available sugar you’ve just eaten will top off your muscles fuel supply and will certainly help your performance during your workout, but is that your goal. Are you there to run farther, cycle faster or lift more OR are you there to tap into your fat stores, put stress on your fat burning metabolism and burn more stored fat during your workout?
While fasted cardio, boot camps and weight training is more physically challenging and may not give you the best performance results, the stress you are putting on your fat burning metabolism is actually training it to be more efficient, making it easier to rely on fat stores at a less strenuous pace like when you’re at work or running errands. Fasted training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, something we all lose to some degree with age.
Fasted workouts are easiest to accomplish in the mornings when we can get out the door right away with just a cup of coffee or tea to get us moving. If you workout later in the day, you can still limit carb intake before your workout and eat primarily protein, fat and non starchy veggies. Also try to put at least 2 hours between your last meal and your workout to allow blood sugars to come back to normal levels.
Intermittent fasting is another way to approach this. You can skip breakfast, having just coffee or tea, (maybe with a little butter or coconut oil in it) and workout just before your lunch, with your first meal coming right after your midday workout. This may be tough the first few times you do it but as you become more adapted to burning fat, it will get a bit easier.
If you find you need some guidance with planning a low carb diet, check out my Food Comes First Diet Plan which includes a food list and a week’s worth of meal suggestions. You can find it here: Food Comes First Diet.