To eat or not to eat?

Whether you should or shouldn’t eat at all before working out is debatable and up to each person. Remember that after you’ve been sleeping for 6 to 8 hours, your blood sugar level will be a bit low. I have to eat a tiny bit of something before I work out, especially if it’s going to be a longer (e.g., 60-minute) session. I usually have half a banana or other type of fruit, a half a cup (118 milliliters) of yogurt, a hard-boiled egg, or a few ounces of a smoothie that I can finish after the workout (my current favorite). I also happen to have an extremely fast metabolism, iron stomach, and blood sugar levels that need to be kept a bit higher. I have learned to consider my physical and mental state and my environment when making a workout choice. With awareness (and sometimes professional guidance), you will, too.

If you exercise soon after you wake up, you probably don’t want a large heavy meal in your stomach. Not only does it feel uncomfortable and cause potential gas, but it also makes you feel sluggish and somewhat unmotivated. Eating a large meal causes blood to be shunted to your digestive tract. The very same blood you will need to feed your brain and body during your workout will be busy trying to help digest your food. However, if it happens to be a day when you are not working out immediately, perhaps you wish or need to have a breakfast of a bit more substance because you have the time to allow for it to digest properly before embarking on your workout routine.

For those of you who don’t wish or need to have a lot of fuel before working out, or if you are embarking on one of the 20-minute routines, I suggest you hydrate with water upon awakening, opt for your caffeinated or non-caffeinated beverage, and also ingest something similar to the following: a small bit of fruit with yogurt, fruit with egg, a small serving of oatmeal with a dollop of yogurt, or a half a piece of toast with almond butter. I am a big fan of always ingesting a small amount of protein along with whatever else I am having. It levels out my blood sugar and keeps my energy constant .

If those suggestions seem too filling for you or you just don’t feel hungry, consider a smoothie. I make one nearly every day when I am working. Smoothies are fast and easy to prepare, and you can always make something different because of the many combinations available to you. Just be creative or choose fruits that are seasonal. Many recipes are available in books and online; just do a search for smoothie recipes. Here is a basic recipe that you can vary by the kind of fruit or liquid base you choose to use. Put the following in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth:

8 to 12 ounces (237 to 355 milliliters) diluted unsweetened cran-water*, pomegranate juice, orange juice, or soy milk
1/2 banana
1/4 cup (59 milliliters) of fruit (any kind of berry, peaches, mango, or pineapple), fresh or frozen
1 or 2 scoops whey protein (I prefer Jay Robb Whey Protein in vanilla flavor, the only one on the market sweetened with stevia, which keeps your system alkaline and does not affect blood sugar), or any other protein powder
1 spoonful of yogurt (optional)
1 tablespoon flax oil (optional)

*Cran-water is made by diluting 4 ounces (118 milliliters) of unsweetened pure cranberry juice in 32 ounces (almost a pint or liter) of water. I also like to dilute my juices such as pomegranate or orange as well to keep sugar levels down .

Drink a few ounces of your smoothie about 15 minutes before your workout, and finish the rest afterward. The 15 minutes should give you enough time to assimilate what is in your stomach. Some of you will be fine with this amount whether you are just participating in a 20-minute routine or a longer cardio plus 60-minute high-intensity routine. Some of you will prefer or need to ingest a bit more fuel for the longer routines. The following are combinations that you may mix to fuel up for a longer haul:

3 to 4 ounces (89 to 118 milliliters) fruit
1/2 to 1 cup (118 to 237 milliliters) yogurt with or without granola or mixed into some oatmeal
Eggs (hard boiled, poached, or scrambled with a variety of vegetables or low-fat cheese and a meat or soy product)
Ezekiel brand bread toast with almond or peanut butter
High-protein, low-sugar cold cereal, oatmeal, or granola with fruit

I highly recommend Ann Louise Gittleman’s books The Fat Flush Plan and The Fat Flush Cookbook for additional recipes and ideas. She has many delicious ideas for breakfast and other quick meals that are higher in protein and lower in simple carbohydrate to keep blood sugar levels even, which helps keep your energy on an even keel as well. An added bonus is that your complexion, hair, and nails will also benefit.

From Morning Pilates Workouts by Cathleen Murakami.
Excerpted by permission of Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. Available to order at www. or by calling 1-800-465-7301.