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To fast or not to fast before a workout?

A lot of Bodyscan clients looking to build muscle mass say they do their gym workout fasted but this is something I advise against.

Protein is the building block for muscle. Therefore it is an advantage to have it in your system and available during your workout. This will avoid extra protein breakdown and promote recovery straight away.

No one wants to work out on a full stomach, so an easily digestible source, such as 30g of whey protein in a shake would be ideal, consumed about 60-90 minutes before your session. If you train in the morning (which is why most people train fasted) then the window will necessarily be smaller.

Carbs and fats are not essential and down to personal preference. Weight training doesn’t require a huge amount of glycogen like endurance training does, so there isn’t a requirement for carbohydrate intake beforehand. Some people find that eating carbs before training makes them feel less energetic (“carb coma”) whereas others find that pre-training carbs make them feel stronger, so consume as required.

If you’re one of those for whom carbs make you sluggish but you want some more energy, you could look into adding some fats to your pre workout meal. This could be 20 grams of nuts or 90% dark chocolate.

One substance I would definitely recommend before hitting the gym (in the morning, at least) is caffeine. It has been shown to improve strength and concentration,  so it’s no surprise that caffeine is the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements. A cup of coffee or a caffeine pill is much cheaper (and usually just as effective) than those hugely expensive tubs of flavoured powder.

Somewhere between 100-400mg of caffeine is a good dose depending on your build and tolerance. See what works for you. [As a guide there are 270mg of caffeine in a Costa flat white, 160mg in one at Starbucks, 80mg in a 250ml can of Red Bull and about 60mg in a Nespresso capsule.]

Stimulants in the evening are not a good idea as they can negatively impact sleep. The half-life for caffeine is roughly 6 hours (varies from person to person) so avoid caffeine about 6-8 hours before bed or you won’t sleep!

Archie Williams
(former) Bodyscan Consultant

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