"Your body takes about five hours to digest fat, three hours for protein
and two hours for carbohydrates. For this reason if your workout is a
few hours away your meal should consist of a combination of low fat,
high carb foods with moderate protein. If your workout is about 90
minutes away--have a snack to energize."
That stuck out in my mind as I read through the article Juicing for Pre-workout yesterday. So I have a couple questions. First, is that statement really true? I guess I never really thought about it like that, but I'm curious to see what other people think. Second, what on earth should I eat? The article had examples of juice type things to eat before but I'm not really sure if any of those are my style. I might try it once or twice, but what are some other options? Let me know what you think.
First, a little of my background. I've been weight lifting and doing regular cardio for 20years, w/ the last couple years doing less weights and going for more endurance sport training. I'm 6ft tall, 165pounds, losing about 20pounds of muscle over the last few years from increased, focused cardio training. Out of highschool I was in the Marine Corps, where I went from 135pounds to 170 and w/ an extremely strict weightlifting routine over many years, got up to 190pounds w/ minimal body fat. As I've gotten older, 35 now, I've become involved in marathon and triathlon but still want to keep the weightlifting physique I've built over the years.
While I've not studied the exact time for each nutrient type to digest, it seems reasonable when I compare it to my pre-workout meals/ snacks. The size, type and timing of my meals depends on the type of session and the intensity plus length of the workout. For cardio lasting more than 1-1/2hour I try to eat a full meal 2-3 hours prior (eggs, toast, w/ peanut butter, turkey bacon and juice for example) and a light snack closer to the workout, typically a granola bar 1hr prior and an apple 30min prior, plus I'll take a sports drink to keep the glycogen stores up throughout. If it's a typical weight session or cardio up to an hour long, I stay away from large meals minimum 3hrs prior or I'll feel weighed down and risk some indigestion during the workout. For weights, I'll drink a protein shake w/ a banana and a granola bar about 45min to an hour prior then make sure I have access to some chicken or some other solid protein filled meal w/in 30min after the workout. If it's the hour or less cardio, then I stay away from protein rich foods, especially beans or chicken or eggs before the session as protein is more difficult to digest and there's more risk of stomach problems during the cardio. I instead do the same snack I do before a long session, a granola bar w/ some fruit 30min to an hour prior. If I feel real hungry around that 1hr prior mark, I'll put some all-natural peanut butter on the granola bar. After any cardio session I make sure to get some food w/in a 1/2hour. I keep to simple things, sandwiches w/ veggies, rice and tuna, home-made egg burrito w/ veggies (egg whites on whole wheat tortilla).
The specific foods will differ based on taste and, more importantly, trial and error from what works and what doesn't. In the past I've kept food diaries for weeks, sometimes months, at a time to keep track of what works and what doesn't. Some snacks give me more energy, others bother my stomach. We all have different digestive systems and our diets will reflect this. I do think, though, if you read around, the types of foods in terms of complex vs simple carbs and protein before and after workouts will be fairly close to what I've described.
I agree with that and keeping a food diary is great advice. Check out this video from Dave Scott, six-time Ironman World Champion. He offers some good advice regarding what to eat and how much to eat before exercising.