Yes. Yes you did.
But why? You had your day planned. You brought the meal you worked hard to prepare for lunch. It just didn’t end up in your stomach and now you’re doing a workout on nothing but coffee and dreams.
At our gym, as it is across America, athletes get busy with their 9 to 5. They get wrapped up in a project or really need to get an assignment done before a deadline and they forget to fuel their bodies. As we have covered in previous posts, this comes from not prioritizing our personal health before the task at hand. Remember we must take care of ourselves so that we can do everything else in our lives even better!
While this isn’t what this article is about, it is always nice to have a reminder to take care of yourself!
This post is about why your body basically crashes and burns when we forget to eat and the effects this has on our training.
Our bodies turn food into energy. The various systems of our body use this energy to do everything that keeps our lives chugging along. In the scenario we are talking about, we have just starved our body of its’ most prized resource.
So what does our body do about it?
Well for the first couple hours, your body is gonna use glycogen. You don’t need to remember the name, just how it feels. You know how after you have breakfast (you first meal of the day, not always the early AM meal) and you’ve got that little bit of extra energy. The energy where you feel laser focused at work or you go to the gym and you can really rock some weight? That’s what a full storage of glycogen feels like.
(Fun Fact: Glycogen is just a bunch of glucose stuck together for storage).
Okay now you’ve hit that stage where you body is empty and you can’t focus worth a damn, it’s almost lunch time. Instead of eating, you locked down and are grinding away at this project. What happens?
Your body will now look for more of that sweet sweet glycogen. Where’s it gonna get it now that your out of the good stuff? It’s gonna go break down some fat and muscle to get the building block of glycogen, glucose. This is where we are now in a fasted state and our body has to break down what its got to keep everything moving.
This works for a bit to keep you moving at work, but it has no business helping you do intense exercise. You just don’t have enough energy available to the muscles to perform at your best. You’ll just move through your workout to accumulate volume (repetitions of movements) but not provide the intensity that leads to large gains in strength and burning of calories. Through this whole fasted workout, you are gonna feel weak and not like yourself.
On top of this, decision making is usually not as on point as it regularly is and we can do things that we wouldn’t normally, leading to injuries.
Another scenario where we don’t eat is post workout, which can be detrimental to progress as well.
We can get home and get wrapped up in a show, have to get back to work, or anything else that is a distraction. When we forget to eat after a workout, this can harm our progress as well as our performance the next day.
After we finish a workout, our body goes to work to repair damaged tissue.
Exercise hurts because you are creating physical changes to your body. Soreness stems from the break down of muscle and our body’s efforts to repair it and make it stronger for the next time it has to experience that action again.
[Funner Fact: Lactate is not why you feel sore. It is why you are forced to stop a movement because you just can’t do another rep, it actually isn’t involved in DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) at all!].
Your body needs carbs and protein to get this job done. Protein to help repair the muscle and carbs to replenish your glycogen stores while getting protein taken in quicker to the muscles.
Forgetting to eat in this window can result in you feeling beaten down the rest of the day, slow progress in muscle development, and hamper your efforts in your next workout by reducing the amount of time your body is able to recover.
So how do we fix it? How do we fix it without feeling like we are jeopardizing our career?
Any number of actions can help, but, they are all based on reminding you to eat.
For some of us this may involve preparing a meal for work. For those of us that already do that it may involve setting an alarm where we stop work for 15-30 minutes and just eat while taking a break from your task (don’t focus on something else while eating, this can result in over eating).
Make sure that the action you take has you eating no more than 5 hours apart from the first meal you have in the day. Try to eat within the 5 hour window before working out and probably not within the hour before working out because ya know…throwing up isn’t fun.
(These are broad guidelines. The perfect routine for you can be found through trial and error, guidance from nutrition coach, or with specific meal plans prescribed by a licensed nutritionist).
You gotta fuel yourself in order to be at your best. We can worry about with what in a different discussion. For now, if this article is talking about you, let’s take some steps to make sure we keep those energy levels up so we can have our best day!