I appreciate you taking the time to answer questions. I have two nutrition questions. I’ll typically train early in the morning, around 5:30 a.m. I have found I do better if I don’t eat before training as I would have to get up too early to get a decent meal in before training. Whey protein shakes upset my stomach if I drink them too close to training. Do you feel this will hinder my efforts to put on some quality mass? I drink some BCAAs while training. Also, is cottage cheese with peaches or strawberries a good pre-bedtime meal or should I have some more carbs since I train on an “empty” stomach? In case this makes a difference, I am 55 years old and have competed in bodybuilding competitions before but feel I need to add a little mass to be more competitive.
Thank you very much for any insight you can offer.
Hi, Pete. No problem at all! Like you, I tend to suffer if I eat or even drink a protein shake directly before I train. It makes sense. When you train, your muscles will demand blood flow to supply them with the nutrients and compounds necessary to perform properly.
Likewise, when you eat food, such as protein, your stomach, and digestive system demand blood circulation to support the digestive process. Now if you devour any significant amount of food right before your leg workout, for example, you’re going to suffer in a couple of ways.
As you proceed to train your legs, enhanced blood circulation will be required by all of your leg muscles. Simultaneously, your gut and digestive system will demand enhanced blood circulation as well. Now the issue arises of insufficient blood distribution to both areas of your body that are requiring more blood. This means your leg muscles will not receive enough blood to perform optimally.
The same goes for your stomach and digestive system; they won’t receive an adequate blood supply to support efficient digestion. This is most likely why you end up with a stomach ache if you have a protein shake too close to your workout time.
BCAAs & Karbolyn
That being said, you have the right idea by taking branched-chain amino acids while training since they don’t require any digestion. BCAAs are metabolized via muscle tissue and not the digestive system.
However, in addition to supplementing BCAAs during training, I suggest also supplementing them prior to your workout and immediately after. This will help keep your energy levels up, stabilize your blood sugar, prevent muscle tissue breakdown, and rev up protein synthesis to maintain a more anabolic environment in your body and support recovery and growth.
Furthermore, including a fast digesting carbohydrate formula, like Karbolyn, would be advantageous before and after your workout. Since you train first thing in the morning after fasting for 8+ hours, your muscle glycogen levels are going to be on the low end.
Your body’s primary energy source for fueling anaerobic activity is glucose. Without adequate amounts of glucose in your body during a workout, you run the risk of your body breaking down muscle protein to convert it into glucose for energy via a process known as Gluconeogenesis. Obviously, this is counterproductive to anyone trying to build bigger muscles.
Although it is true your body can oxidize BCAAs as energy when there aren’t adequate levels of glucose present, that ends up being some expensive energy!
Furthermore, it’s really a shame to burn up BCAAs for energy when they could be bolstering protein synthesis to amplify recovery and muscle growth instead!
As for your bedtime snack, I don’t see that being a bad thing. Whether or not including more carbohydrates at this time would be advantageous depends on two things: 1) How many carbohydrates? 2) More importantly, how many calories do you consume during the day prior to that pre-slumber meal?
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The Role of Carbs
You may have heard that eating carbs right before bed will automatically convert to fat. Although it’s true calories consumed in excess of the body’s immediate metabolic and energy demands are stored as glycogen or fat, this is a basic metabolic process that takes place after meals or snacks, regardless of the time of day.
Ultimately, the total number of calories you consume, NOT the calorie source, or the timing for that matter, will determine whether or not you gain fat.
In other words, eating more carbohydrates before could offer fuller muscle glycogen stores by the morning when you train, thus giving you more energy. However, you do walk a thin line in terms of calories for the day if you’re wanting to reduce your body fat level as well.
In short, just make sure you pay close attention to the total count, and you should be fine.
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