“I can’t eat before I work out.” Sure you can!

“I can’t eat before I work out.” Sure you can!

By Dr. Rick Kattouf II


Before we dive into the details, we first have to establish that “I can’t” is never an acceptable response. Two acceptable responses are:


“I choose to…”




“I choose not to…”


The reason, I can’t, is never acceptable is because you can do anything you choose to. And if you choose not to, that’s perfectly fine as well; you just have to accept the negative consequences that are a result of choosing not to.


Fueling the body right before (and during/after) a workout is critical for optimum performance and recovery. According to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.”


All too often, athletes will make excuses as to why they can’t eat before a workout such as, ‘I’m not hungry” or ‘my stomach can’t handle it’ or ‘I’ll get sick if I eat before I work out’ or ‘I’ll gain weight if I eat before I work out’ or ‘I’ll burn more fat if I starve myself before a workout.’ In addition, athletes have similar excuses as to why they cannot fuel their body during a workout. For example, ‘I cannot use energy gels during a workout; they make my stomach sick.’ Wait, what? An energy gel makes your stomach sick, seriously? These are the same individuals posting pictures on social media of themselves drinking wine, drinking beer, eating pizza, burgers, ice cream, cakes, cookies, donuts, etc. This same person can eat all of these foods and their stomach handles it just fine; but a simple, 100 calorie energy gel, that will help to power them through their workout makes their stomach sick? C’mon now, you gotta stop that.


Individuals can train their body to do amazing things like an Ironman Triathlon, a marathon, endurance cycling event, ultra marathon, etc. Therefore, we can train our gut to do whatever we choose. And when we choose to fuel the body properly before (and during/after) a workout, success will follow.


Carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient the body needs prior to a workout. And when we fuel the body properly before each workout, we will maximize performance and reduce muscle damage (Effect of meal frequency and timing on physical performance). Here are two great pre-workout fueling options that are easy to digest and will power up the body:
  1. K II Kookie Bar® & K II Brownie Bar®: This energy bar with 53% carbohydrate has an ideal balance of C-P-F to help assist in keeping your body well fueled for your workout.
  2. 2-3 scoops Sustain (complex carbohydrate) mixed with 1 scoop FerociFire Xtreme® in 20-24oz water: If you prefer liquid fuel before your workout, make this your go-to as this will provide your body with the necessary carbohydrates to maximize your workout.


Keeping our glycogen stores (fuel for the body formed from carbohydrates and stored in the muscles and liver) loaded and reloaded is key for performance and recovery. And this is why fueling the body properly before a workout (and all throughout the day) is so critical. As we exercise, glycogen is converted into glucose. Glucose is an important fuel source for the brain and for muscle contraction. In short, glycogen is the primary fuel source your muscles will use. And this is a big reason we want to focus on ingesting carbohydrates before/during/after exercise.


When we do not take in carbohydrates we will then deplete our glycogen stores. Keep in mind, the muscles need glucose to contract. And how do we deliver glucose to the muscles? Yes, that’s right; glycogen is converted into glucose. But when glycogen stores are depleted, the body has to find other ways to form glucose. And it does so by breaking down protein (muscle) and fat. This is a very inefficient way to produce energy. And when we tank our glycogen stores, our blood sugar drops. Have you ever felt just super low on energy during a workout? And even more severe, maybe lightheaded, dizzy and/or weak? If so, there is a very good chance you were experiencing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This alone should help to solidify how important it is to keep your body properly fueled with carbohydrates.


Let’s also be sure we reload those glycogen stores properly. A nice combination of carbohydrate and protein will be key for glycogen replenishment. Adding some protein to the carbohydrate will help to accelerate glycogen replenishment (Regulation of Muscle Glycogen Repletion, Muscle Protein Synthesis and Repair Following Exercise). For example, we want to consume a 2:1, 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. For example, a 2:1 ratio would be 20 grams carbohydrate and 10 grams protein. A 3:1 would be 30g carbohydrate and 10g protein. Here is an easy mix that you can consume following each workout and help to reload those glycogen stores with the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio. 1-3 scoops Sustain + 1 scoop Load-Reload in 20-24oz water (1 scoop Sustain will give you a 2:1. 2 scoops Sustain will give you a 3:1. 3 scoops Sustain will give you a 4:1).


If you are ready to Choose to keep your body properly fueled before/during/after your workouts, implementing the tips above will be a huge successful step. If you have any questions on how to keep your body properly fueled before/during/after working out, feel free to call/email/text me anytime (864-382-8486, [email protected]). Get ready to find a whole new level of performance and recovery when you choose to fuel the body right!




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Rick Kattouf II, O.D. is a 2x Best-Selling Author and Fitness & Nutrition expert and has been named one of America’s PremierExperts® and one of the World Fitness Elite® Trainers of the Year. Rick is a Sports Nutrition Specialist, Heart Rate Performance Specialist, Master Personal Trainer & Triathlon Coach. He has been seen on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates around the country as well as in the USA Today, Chicago Tribune, National Examiner, Ironman.com, Livestrong.com, Runner’s World, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Health UK, FIGHT! Magazine, Florida Cycling Magazine and The Independent in the UK. Rick is the CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Inc, CEO/Founder of TeamKattouf® Nutrition LLC, CEO/Founder of Virtual Gym LLC, Creator of TeamKattouf® Nutrition Supplements, Host of Rx Nutrition, author of Forever Fit, Creator of 5-Round Fury® Nutrition Supplement, 5-Round Fury Fitness® workout app, Creator of Coach2CEO, Creator of Fuel Keeper®, Entrepreneur and Inspirational Speaker. Dr. Rick has personally coached individuals in 30+ states and 10+ countries.


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