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Protein Prior to Exercise?

Chris and Jen...Chris, you have a bowl of oatmeal and some blueberries and go out and ride 50 miles or row hard for an hour...how do you have enough gas in your tank??? My pre-workout meals have been mostly protein, particularly eggs and egg whites...maybe yogurt and oatmeal, whole wheat bread or English muffin with peanut butter...I do workout 6 days a week. I do intervals on the rower I lift...I am 60 years old...I max out at about 155 bpm doing intervals, I do the slower aerobic work 2 days a week. Jen says lay off the protein pre-workout...what do I eat to have enough fuel...and how many calories??? Thanks, Bruce.

Hi Bruce,

I am not certain what time of the day you are working out, but based on what you are eating prior, it may be late morning or noon-time. First, you do not have to "lay off of protein" prior to working out, just as long as you give yourself enough time to digest the meal and make sure that it is paired with a great carbohydrate source. Based on some of your samples, you should be eating this two - three hours prior to your workout to give it ample time to be digested and absorbed. Chris' example of oatmeal and blueberries is great as is your whole wheat bread with peanut butter.

What and how much to eat all depends on WHEN you are eating prior to exercise:

1) The pre-exercise meals should consist of mainly of carbohydrates for several reasons:

a. They are easily digested and absorbed.

b. Carbohydrates in the AM will replenish lost muscle glycogen stores that have been depleted after a night's rest.

c. Muscle glycogen serves as the primary fuel source during exercise.

d. Muscle glycogen stores will limit your ability to exercise for long periods of time (like Chris' 50 mile rides) -- once it runs out in your muscles, so do you.

2) A higher carbohydrate meal of 300-500 calories should be eaten 2-3 hours prior to exercise to allow for digestion and absorption.

3) Meals higher in fiber, fat, and protein will take much longer to digest. Also note that protein is not a major fuel source for exercise. BUT protein with some carbs is great for muscle recovery.

4) If you consume more calories and/or meals higher in fat/protein -- allow more time for digestion.