Your Question: Larry, when should I be eating? An hour or so before a workout or an hour or so after the workout? If I eat before, I feel sluggish. But if I eat after, I’m starving during the workout. What do you recommend?
Larry’s Response: When your metabolism is cranked up from strenuous exercise your body is burning carbohydrates. After the available carbs reach a lower point, you will start working on other sources of energy, most likely protein (muscle). In addition, sweating – even when it may not be noticed – drives electrolytes out of the body.
It seems reasonable to load the body with enough carbohydrate and electrolyte to hold things together until after the workout. A good carbohydrate is D-Ribose. It can provide calories and help recovery by increasing the amount of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). A study in 2003 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12660407) demonstrated that males who used D-Ribose twice daily had greater work output than similar test males who used dextrose. I conclude that the study results support using D-Ribose regularly – and it may be helpful to use it as a pre-workout load.
Protein isn’t as good of a source of quick energy calories as carbohydrate, but it can be broken down into amino acids and used to build tissue and muscle. If a person eats well on a regular basis, making an extra effort to load up on all nutrients prior to workout seems counter-productive.
If the feeling of hunger is heightened during exercise you might want to load with things that can cover the symptoms of hunger – a simple carbohydrate, such D-Ribose, and an electrolyte seems superior to eating before a workout or stopping while exercising to eat something.
Think about making your own pre-workout drink; sea salt, D-Ribose, and honey mixed in warm clean water.
I hope this helps.