I've been inadvertently participating in a scientific n=1 sort of experiment in food. As with all experiments, this one started off with an observation... I've come to notice that there are certain foods that enhance your workout. Other foods are neutral. Some foods just plain ruin your chances of having a good training day. It's the latter that I've been mostly concerned. Here's the philosophy... I know for a fact that I can't have a great workout every time. It's only natural that some workouts are going to suck. I'd at least like to remove food from the list of reasons that I biffed a good opportunity.
To be fair, I'd like to offer some definitions. First, this is about food, not about drink. I may experiment later on beverages, which sounds completely hysterical. I'll probably withhold that until after IMLP. Second, 'pre-workout' is defined as the 3 hours immediately preceding the event. I am purposefully excluding breakfast (since I can't get my lazy bum out of bed in the morning) or yesterday's dinner (my brain is not capable of such long-term analysis). Third, I recognize that any food, when eaten in copious amounts, can be workout debilitating. I'd like to focus on normal, non-competitive eating.
Here's my personal top 5 Worst Pre-Workout Foods, in random order:
Not sure why. They are loaded with complex carbs. Simple carbs. Protein. Fat. Butter. High Fructose Corn Syrup. They have absolutely no additional nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals. There's nothing extraneous holding this food back. This seems to be the kind of food that is screaming energizer bunny. Yet, every time I've attempted the pre-workout pancake breakfast/ dinner, my performance has been as flat as the proverbial flapjack.
Corned Beef and Cabbage
I am completely uncertain how to 'corn' meat, but I doubt there is actual corn added to the beef. This St. Patrick's Day favorite is quite tasty and really should be common at more times in the year. Often served with potatoes, it helped the Irish survive long periods of winter and cold. It should help you survive a long run. But, it's long term effects continue for an entire season of training. The concoction of meat and vegetable stays with you from St. Patty's until Easter like a concrete block tied to your ankle and dumped into your stomach.
Not the processed, lunch meat kind. I'm talking the real deal, the delicious feathered friend that Ben Franklin once wanted to be our national bird. It's long been thought that there's a chemical in turkey called tryptophan that induces a sleep-like stupor upon eating the fowl. Whereas turkey does have this amino acid, the sleep-aid hypothesis has long been since refuted. Still, people cling to archaic ideas like a two-year-old clings to his bah-bah, refusing to let it go. Doesn't matter. Despite the evidence negating tryptophan, turkey induces a culture of post-consumption fatigue. There's a reason Thanksgiving doesn't feature any turkey trots after noon. We have been trained since our youth to eat turkey, sit, and nap. Even without football on TV, turkey is best reserved when for when your workout goals include not moving.
Instead of a single food, the entire genre of foods apply here. The most famous ingredient in Mexican dishes is called capsaicin. Capsaicin is a long acknowledged antibacterial, allowing our Latin-American brethren to consume without risk of food-borne illnesses. It is also what gives salsa that burning feeling as you swallow and is rumored to put hair on your chest (not good, especially if you're female). Add in beans, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions and you ensure that every 5th stride on a run with be met with a burped-up version of what went down. Let's not mention the after-burn that happens on day 2 of the Mexican food experience.
The Garbage Plate
Originally introduced on this blog here, it seems that I can't stop picking on this dish. This food physically frightens me. In my defense, I have never actually attempted the test in-vivo. In-vitro experimentation, meaning that I have only thought of eating a Garbage Plate then attempted a workout, has yielded sloth-like results. I have been slow, sluggish, and absurdly bloated. This food is so powerful, it ruined my workout without actually putting a single morsel into my mouth. Garbage Plates may be deities in the diet ruining arena.
This, in no way, suggests that I do not eat these foods, except for maybe the Garbage Plate. In fact, I recommend eating them, except for the GP. I have eaten them all many times, except for the GP, and will continue to invade my weekly calorie count. As an aside, if you are competing in the Ironman Lake Placid, in my age group, and can beat me, I highly recommend you eat a Garbage Plate the night before AND the morning of the event. Send me a note and I'll bring a few for you to experiment with towards the end of July. For the rest of you, my advice is to savor them post-workout when the burning, bloating, and sluggishness does not impede performance.
Did I miss anything?