EP 76 – Pre and Post Workout Fuel…the Intuitive Way

by | May 16, 2022

EP 76 – Pre and Post Workout Fuel…the Intuitive Way

If you’ve ever taken part in any fitness challenges, then you’ll no doubt have heard how important it is to fuel your body properly before, during and after workouts to make sure that you get the best possible results.  And if you’ve heard that, then you’re also likely very familiar with the precise measuring, weighing, timing and tracking that goes along with it.

For most, eating this way is complicated and unsustainable.

But is it even necessary??  Is it even true that we have to apply this level of precision to our nutrition in order to see results in our workouts?

The answer is no.  While it IS important that we get ENOUGH food and nutrients to have the energy we need to fuel our activity and recover well, it certainly does not need to be complicated.

Tune in to learn how intuitive eating and gentle nutrition apply to fuelling your workouts.

What you’ll learn by listening:

  1. What happens inside your body during exercise.  How the body produces energy and what fuel it requires to do so.
  2. The risks of underfuelling on fitness performance
  3. Why it’s sometimes hard to honour your hunger and what to do if you don’t feel hungry
  4. Four simple tips to make fuelling your workouts and recovery easy and fun.

About the Host—Kim Hagle is a certified Personal Trainer, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Body Image Coach, mom of four and founder of Radiant Vitality Wellness. Through mindset coaching and intuitive movement and eating, Kim helps women go beyond the desire to lose weight so they can feel healthy and confident in their now body.

Want to feel good in your body without focusing on weight.   Download “5 Steps to Feeling Healthy, Happy and Confident (without obsessing over the scale)” – our FREE guide that will help get started with the non-diet approach.  Inside you’ll learn 5 simple shifts to feeling better in your NOW body! www.radiantvitality.ca/freeguide

-Ready to take the next step?  Visit our website to learn more about our coaching programs www.radiantvitality.ca/programs

For health professionals looking to adopt the non-diet approach in your business, visit Kim’s mentor, Stephanie Dodier’s site for free resources to get started.  https://www.stephaniedodier.com

Let’s stay in touch! Kim is on Instagram and Facebook @radiantvitalitywellness.  Or visit her website at www.radiantvitality.ca

Disclaimer.  The information contained in this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice.  Always consult a health care professional about your unique needs.


EP 76 – The Intuitive Way to Fuel Your Workouts

[00:00:00] Well, Hey there, friends and welcome back to the joyful movement show. I’m your host, Kim Hagle personal trainer, registered holistic nutritionist and body image coach. And today we’re picking up where we left off last week. So this is part two of a three-part series all about fueling your body to feel and function your best using gentle nutrition.

[00:00:23] So gentle nutrition, if you missed last week’s episode, is all about feeding yourself in a way that supports your health and helps you feel and function your best, while also honoring your satisfaction. It’s honoring the sensual experience of eating well, honoring how the food makes you feel. It’s having a healthy balance of food while having a healthy relationship with food.

[00:00:47] Gentle nutrition is the 10th principle of intuitive eating. And last week we talked all about how taking a gentler approach can make quote, healthy eating, feel a lot more accessible and sustainable.

[00:01:00] Because I really think that diet culture complicates the shit out of eating and makes it very confusing for people to know how to feed themselves. And that’s a big part of what keeps us on the diet cycle, right? If healthy eating feels so hard and we can’t figure it out or maintain it on our own, then we have to keep buying program after program.

[00:01:21] And the area of sports or fitness nutrition is no different. If you have ever belonged to a gym or taken part in any fitness challenges, then you’ve no doubt heard how important it is to fuel your body properly before, during and after workouts, to make sure that you get the best possible results.

[00:01:41] So if it wasn’t already complicated enough to feed yourself now you’ve got that added element to make sure that you eat the right types of foods at the right time to make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck out of your workout.

[00:01:55] And if you’ve ever gone down this road, then, you know, you’ve kind of got two choices and how you handle that. You can count macros and make sure that you get so many grams of protein and so many grams of carbs within so many minutes before or after the workout. Which means weighing and measuring your food and likely prepping it on Sundays to make sure it’s ready for the week. Or you could take the easier approach. But much more expensive, which is to get all the shakes and concoctions that are already perfectly balanced, so you can just grab and go.

[00:02:28] And if you’ve never done any kind of fitness diet like this, consider yourself lucky. Because of all the diets I’ve done in my life, I’d say this is the most complicated of them all. And for the vast majority of people, it’s completely unsustainable. I don’t know too many people who are willing to count, measure, weigh, and track with that level of precision for more than a few months. And then the shakes and the drinks, they just often become unaffordable or you just get sick of them after a while. And then that goes by the wayside too.

[00:03:04] But the real question I want to address today is, “is it even necessary?” Is all of this pre and post-workout nutrition even really a thing. And I’ll tell you right now that unless you’re a professional or elite athlete with very specific training goals, that level of precision is definitely not necessary. It’s only diet culture that leads you to believe it is. They will tell you how important it is to fuel your body well, to boost your performance and to preserve muscle and burn fat.

[00:03:36] But you have to remember that in most of these challenges or plans, you are in a huge calorie deficit. Most fitness plans like these have women eating about 1200 calories per day, which by the way, is the caloric need of a three-year-old. And if you eat that little on an ongoing basis, your body is going to start metabolizing its own muscle to survive.

[00:04:02] So the precision in the diet is about getting as much protein as possible to preserve muscle because you’re literally starving. While also giving you the least amount of carbs possible in the window where the body needs them the most right before or after a workout,. So that you have the energy to get through the workouts without tanking.

[00:04:23] So in that sense, I’m very much against pre and post-workout nutrition. But I’m against dieting in general, which is all that, that is. It’s aesthetic focused. It’s not a normal or sustainable way to eat. And it’s not healthy to live in a calorie restricted state. It’s just not.

[00:04:41] But does that mean that pre and post-workout nutrition doesn’t matter at all? No way. Having adequate fuel will help us feel better during our workouts and will help us progress towards our goals and will aid in recovery. But we can take a gentle nutrition approach to this too. That’s easy, enjoyable, and sustainable.

[00:05:03] So, what I hope to accomplish today is to give you some insight into what happens inside our body during exercise, so that you can understand what your body needs in terms of fueling and how you can add nutrition in. Remember last week, we talked about how gentle nutrition is about adding things in as opposed to eliminating or restricting. So, how we can add things in to support our body, to feel and function at its best.

[00:05:29] And just a point of clarification when I’m talking about fueling our body for exercise and aiding in recovery, I’m talking about more intense forms of movement here. Like speed work, heavy lifting, heavy weightlifting circuit or hiit training or long endurance activities, like more than 60 minutes of cycling, running, or swimming.

[00:05:51] For lower intensity or shorter duration activities, they don’t deplete the body’s reserves in the same way. So they generally don’t require any additional fueling, although everybody’s individual needs are different, of course.

[00:06:03] So let’s talk about what happens inside your body during exercise. And if you can think back to your high school biology class, you might remember that our body uses ATP, adenosine triphosphate, to provide energy, to move.

[00:06:18] All day long, your body is producing ATP as you go about your business. When you add in exercise, it needs more. You’re moving faster, you’re breathing harder you’re using more energy. So you need more ATP. Now you might remember. Also that there are three ways that we can make ATP and how we do that depends on the type of activity and yes, in many of our activities and workouts, we can go between the three systems, lots of times, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll talk about them one at a time and how they are each relevant to certain types of activity.

[00:06:55] So the first energy system is our phosphagen system where stored creatine phosphate in our cells very rapidly turns to ATP. So this type of energy is good for very short, like 10 second bursts, of intense activity, like lifting a heavy weight or throwing a ball or jumping. The creatine phosphate in our cells is used up very quickly’ that’s why you’ve only got about 10 seconds worth of this type of . But it also replenishes quickly. So if you rest, you can go again. Now we can’t really fuel this type of energy. CP production is just a part of what your cells are doing automatically inside your body. So fueling isn’t really relevant to this type of activity.

[00:07:40] The second energy pathway is our glycolytic system. This is where we use blood glucose, the sugar that’s traveling through our blood, and break that down into ATP. This happens very rapidly, so it’s used for more intense bursts of activity lasting up to about three minutes. The reason we could only last that long with this energy system is that the by-product of glycolytic metabolism is lactic acid, which you will recognize as the burning sensation in your muscles when you’re working hard.

[00:08:14] Once lactic acid builds to a certain level. You have to slow down or stop because the muscles just can’t keep going. After some rest, the lactic acid is cleared and then you can do another burst. So this energy system is what we use for interval training, like a hiit work or speed work. And it’s also what we rely on at the start of an endurance activity, like running or cycling before we hit that steady state and get into our aerobic system, which I’ll talk about next.

[00:08:45] But as I said, this system relies on blood glucose. So in order to perform intense activity, you need to have glucose in your blood, meaning you have to have eaten something in the last couple of hours to provide the glucose to be able to work out. Now all food eventually turns to glucose in our bloodstream, whether it’s fat, protein, or carbs. So all food provides energy. But because carbs are the easiest molecule to turn into glucose, that’s the body’s preferred energy source, particularly if you’re eating close to workout time because protein and fat take a couple of hours to break down.

[00:09:26] So if blood glucose is not there or not enough of it, when you go to work out, that’s where you’ll find yourself hitting the wall or bonking, as they call it. In this type of activity, it doesn’t matter what you have in terms of reserves like stored fat or stored glycogen in your muscles. The body can’t access them. It needs glucose.

[00:09:50] And then our third and final pathway is the aerobic pathway that requires oxygen to metabolize, carbohydrates and fat to fuel longer duration, lower intensity activities. So think longer distance running, cycling, swimming, steady state activities.

[00:10:07] In this system, your body will first metabolize blood glucose, then stored glycogen, which is any leftover glucose you consumed, but didn’t use that gets stored in your muscles. And then stored body fat in that order. Now a lot of people think. “Okay, this is the way to go. Aerobic exercise burns fat. Yay”. And you might also have heard it recommended that if you do cardio first thing in the morning in a fasted state, you’ll burn more fat because there’s no blood glucose to use up.

[00:10:40] And while that’s sorta true, it’s really faulty thinking and it’s definitely not ideal. Because by the time we access our fat stores, it means that everything else is depleted. And your body really doesn’t want to use up its fat reserves. They are there for our survival. Particularly if you’re in a caloric deficit and you’re not eating enough as a rule, your body is going to protect that fat at all costs. So you’ll find yourself not having much energy to get through activity. You won’t be able to go as long. You won’t have the strength and speed and the workout just won’t feel that good.

[00:11:18] Now if you’re eating enough in general and you’re well-nourished and you have plenty of glycogen stores, then fat metabolism is much easier because. You’re not depleted and needing that fat to survive.

[00:11:30] So those are the three ways that we get the energy we need to get through our workout or activity. And then while we are working out, essentially what’s happening is we’re adding resistance or load to our muscles beyond what’s used in everyday life. So this increase in resistance causes little tiny microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. Which is entirely normal, as long as you’re not over-training or lifting beyond your capacity. And then the body goes to work after the exercise session to repair those tears it’s really pretty miraculous. And it’s in that repair work that our muscles grow and become stronger and more efficient.

[00:12:11] And nutrition’s role in all of that is that the muscles use amino acids, which is what we get when protein breaks down, to make those repairs.

[00:12:23] So there’s your little science lesson. And I really hope I didn’t overwhelm you with that. But the main takeaway here is that is why it’s so important that we have enough fuel to have the energy we need to get through the workout. And the preferred fuel sources carbs. And that we’re also eating some protein to help in the recovery and repair of the muscles.

[00:12:47] So getting enough is key. It’s a very dangerous myth that you should reduce food and increase activity to lose weight. You literally can’t eat less if you want to exercise more, at least not longterm.

[00:13:03] Under fueling, chronically, can result in decreased endurance performance, increased injury risk, decreased glycogen stores, which means the body will metabolize muscle, decreased muscle strength, mood changes like depression and irritability and decreased concentration coordination, and impaired judgment.

[00:13:25] Eating less and moving more might get you weight loss in the short-term, but it will also hinder your performance, deplete your body and potentially cause injury or other serious health issues.

[00:13:36] I’ll give you a good example of this. That just happened with one of my personal training clients. She’s a busy mom of four young kids, and though she’s definitely not dieting or trying to lose weight, she often forgets to eat with all the busy-ness of her life.

[00:13:51] Now she’s been working through a couch to 5k program as she’s returning to running after having her fourth baby. And she runs first thing in the morning before her husband leaves for work because it’s literally the only time she has for herself. And she’s been finding herself stuck at the 4k mark for quite a while. And she’s feeling really slow and sluggish and sore during and after her runs.

[00:14:15] So we had a little chat about her eating habits and it turned out she’s only eating usually twice a day because she forgets to eat. She’s definitely not getting enough. So we talked about ways that she could make it easy to feed herself, like nothing complicated. We didn’t even talk about protein, carbs and fat.

[00:14:33] My suggestion to her was just trying to get more food in. When you make lunch for the kids, make a lunch for yourself. Try to get some breakfast in maybe even a few bites of a banana before the run, but definitely breakfast after the run. like Literally, just eat. So she worked on that and honestly, within a week, she nailed that 5k. And it was easier and faster than any of the runs she’d done up to that point. Under fueling was hindering her results, even though she was training regularly.

[00:15:04] Now, the same client mentioned how she doesn’t usually feel hungry in the morning and that’s why she would forget to eat. So I wanted to talk about that too, because I think it’s quite common that people don’t feel their hunger and it can be a bit confusing, especially when one of the main principles of intuitive eating is to honor your hunger.

[00:15:24] So does that mean we shouldn’t eat? If we don’t feel hungry? And of course there’s so many nuances to this and everybody’s needs are different, but sometimes like in this case, the answer is yes.

[00:15:36] There’s a lot of different reasons why we might not feel hungry. One could be that your hunger signal is just offline. If skipping breakfast has been a pattern or a weight loss strategy for you over the years, your hunger signal might have just shut itself off. Also if your stress levels are high, it could affect your appetite, as cortisol is an appetite suppressant and sometimes, after workouts, like your cortisol levels do increase during exercise. So it’s quite normal after exercise to not feel hungry because of the cortisol that’s running through your body.

[00:16:08] Another possible reason is that if your mornings are rushed or chaotic or your life is rushed, or chaotic in general, you might be so busy doing all of the things that you might not just notice that you actually are hungry. And another thing that could be going on is that if your basic needs are not being met, such as getting enough sleep and nourishment, that can just really disrupt your connection to your body. So you might not feel the sensation of hunger.

[00:16:36] So while intuitive eating encourages us to honor our hunger it’s important to question whether you’re really not hungry, or if you’re out of touch with your hunger. Or if you’re avoiding eating as a dieting strategy. In this client’s case, it sounded like the busy-ness of her life distracted her from her hunger, and she would forget to take care of herself. Intuitive eating is also about self-care, and feeding yourself to provide the required energy for the activities that you do so that you feel and function your best.

[00:17:09] So a distinction that’s important to make here is that feeling hungry is called physical hunger. The body’s need for food is called practical hunger. So in terms of working out and fueling your body for the activities you want to do, sometimes it’s an issue of practical hunger and making the decision to provide your body with what it needs, even if you don’t feel physical hunger.

[00:17:33] So it’s really about noticing how you feel. That’s how we bring our intuition into this to make that decision and know what’s right for us. Some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you need more fueling, are: “do I have the energy I need to get through my workouts? Or am I hitting the wall? ”

[00:17:51] “Do I feel energized or depleted after my workouts. Am I making progress in my strength, speed and endurance”. I mean, if that’s your goal and you’re trying to do that.

[00:18:04] “Am I avoiding breakfast or avoiding meals or reducing calories, because I think it’s better for fat burning.”

[00:18:11] And if that’s the case, try honoring your practical hunger with a small meal before your workout and notice how doing so makes you feel during and after.

[00:18:23] And honestly, guys, what I really want you to understand here today is that the nutrition part of all of this doesn’t have to be complicated. Really it doesn’t. Fitspo would love to turn this into a page long math formula, but, it’s just ridiculous. Intuitive eating works with fueling your workouts. You can still eat the foods you like and find satisfying, and you don’t have to overthink “is this the right food and the right proportions at the right time”, you can keep it simple and have fun with it. And when it’s simple, we’re much more likely to stick with it.

[00:18:58] So here’s all that you really need to know. I’ve said it before. I’m going to say it one more time. Eat enough. You can’t increase exercise and decrease calories without risking under fueling issues. So just make sure you’re getting enough. You’ll know you’re getting enough. If you feel full and satisfied, you aren’t thinking about food constantly, you’re not having uncontrollable cravings and you’re not tempted to binge eat.

[00:19:23] Number two: don’t be afraid of carbs. Carbs, turn to glucose fastest. So they are the preferred fuel before a workout and they also help replenish those glycogen stores after a workout.

[00:19:35] Your body knows how to make good use of carbs. Actually, it was really fascinating. The other day, my daughter came home after a pretty intense soccer practice and I could tell right away, like she was, she was spent. And she went straight to the fridge. And there was all kinds of food in there: everything from fruits and veggies to cheese, to yogurt, to pepper, it’s like there was all kinds of stuff in there that she likes.

[00:20:00] But of course she closed the fridge and said there’s nothing to eat, but quickly notice there is a bag of sour patch kids on the counter and she grabbed it and shoved a couple in her mouth real quick. And I could instantly see her body relax. Like she took a sigh of relief and it was like, she just knew that she needed that in that moment. It was such a great example of intuitive eating. She knew she needed a real quick carb in that moment. And after she ate them, she sat and had a balanced dinner with us.

[00:20:28] So we don’t need to fear carbs. We don’t need to fear sugar. Sometimes it’s exactly what the body needs. And in fact, next week, we’re going to have a guest expert on talking all about the subject of sugar. So stay tuned for that.

[00:20:41] Number three: protein is important to help repair and recover after a workout, but you don’t need to overthink it. Most of us get enough protein, despite what fitness culture will tell you. I’ve never heard of anyone in north America having a protein deficiency. So you absolutely don’t need to worry about counting grams or weighing your chicken breasts.

[00:21:03] However, if you find yourself feeling sluggish or sore after a workout, you might find that adding in some protein within an hour after exercise could help.

[00:21:12] And number four is to honor your hunger always. Always honor your hunger, but also, and especially on rest days. Diet culture will have you believe that you don’t need as much food on rest days, but that’s not necessarily true. Rest days are when our body is integrating all of our hard work and doing that building and repairing of the muscle. So energy needs are still there. If you’re hungry, eat. The body knows what it knows.

[00:21:39] All right. So that is all for today. I know we got a bit science-y in there, but the intent behind the science was to hopefully take some of the confusion out of how to feed yourself for activity. So I’d love to know if you found these tips helpful, feel free to shoot me a message on my social media channels. I’m at radiant vitality wellness.

[00:21:59] And if you’re feeling like you could use some support in learning how to apply intuitive eating and unlearning all of the diet culture rules and confusing, garbage that we’ve absorbed over the years, then have a look at the programs on my website, which is www.radiantvitality.ca. So, I’ll see you back here next week, and we’ll be talking all about sugar with our guest expert. In the meantime, I hope that you have a great week and find some joyful movement. Be well and here’s to your radiant vitality.