Is it better to eat before you run, or should you be in a fasting state? The short answer is – depends on what your goals are. Is it so lose weight (i.e. lose fat) or to improve fitness?
If your goal is to lose weight – there are several approaches. These include:
- Undertaking extra training or cross-training to increase energy expenditure. This however can increase risk of injury and can increase hunger which can lead to overeating and hence counteracting the original goal.
- Undertaking a training session with minimal or no carbohydrate intake during the session. This again can cause severe hunger and overeating post training session. You run the risk of fatigue and with that, loss of concentration. On the trails, this can lead to serious injuries. A lack of enough carbohydrate stores can cause protein to be broken down for energy, leading to unwanted loss of muscle.
- Waiting several hours after a workout before consuming carbohydrate or other food. This may reduce effective recovery and influence the following training session and quality thereof. It may also cause great stress on the immune system, leading to increased risk of illness.
- Undertaking a morning training session in the fasted state. The disadvantage is however that fatigue can cause poor technique and lack of optimal training and an inability to complete a hard training session. This can counteract the goal of improving performance.
The question remains on what is your ultimate goal?
If your ultimate goal is to feel good, enjoy the trails, be healthy and lose fat – one or more of the above approaches can be used. It is important not to overeat because of a feeling of “virtue” after a hard session.
If your goal is to improve your performance and get fitter and faster and be the first over the finish line at the next trail race, it is better to run with enough glycogen available.
If you know exercising on an empty stomach leaves you feeling so tired that you lose motivation to run entirely, or if you are a young athlete, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic or prone to low blood glucose – then its best to grab a bite before you train.
Essentially the benefits of hitting the trails with enough glycogen in the muscles far outweigh the benefits of sitting on the couch with an empty stomach.