What to Eat Prior to a Workout

The Red Wheelbarrow, William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

So I’m hit with the “what do I eat prior to working out” question frequently in my training practice, and I think my clients are a bit taken back by the complexity required in answering such a question.  So much, though depends upon what the diet is like to begin with; what’s the initial-conditions hormonal/enzymatic environment?  That I can fast for an extended period of time prior to a workout, suffer no blood sugar drop during the workout, and workout with the added benefit of not being encumbered by a bloated/heavy stomach payload is all predicated upon my having followed a Paleo diet for quite some time now.  I am, to put it succinctly, a fat-burner and not at the mercy of ingested carbohydrates as an immediate go-to fuel.  Do not attempt the fasted workout if you’re still a sugar burner — you will crash and burn, especially when face-to-face with one of my patented HIIT throw-downs.  No judgements here, just the facts of the matter.  If you’re still a sugar-burner, please do eat a little something prior to seeing me.  I’m not so egotistical as to consider that far-away look in your eyes as being the result of your absolute gaga-ness over my programming mastery — it is, however, signalling me that I need to prepare to scrape you off the studio floor here in just a few minutes 😉


Why raw dairy?  Why any dairy, for that matter?

A good buddy of mine, Bryan Barksdale, a pillar and founding member of the uber-fast-growing Austin Primal/Paleo/Ancestral Fitness community, asked me at a recent community Meet-Up, if I could quantify — and thereby justify/legitimize — my rather copious consumption of dairy; dairy not being, of course, “Paleo” by standard convention.  Good question.  And my answer, devoid, as it was, of any scientific underpinnings whatsoever (like many of my answers to questions pertaining to Physical Culture in general, and diet and training specifically) I’m sure sounded a bit New-Agey…”woo-woo”, as it were.  Hey, blame it on that evening’s super moon having hyper-sensitized my personal conviction for placing self-knowledge on at least an equal footing as that of scientific knowledge and in seeking “full truth” by way of emotional, spiritual — as well as Scientific — directions 🙂

Ok, so super moon or not, what’s my take on the whole (pardon the pun) dairy issue?  Well, again, it boils down to an n=1 assessment, evaluation and a resultant determination, of enhanced well-being.  More to the point, I relayed to Bryan how the inclusion of raw dairy (specifically here, locally produced, raw & unpasteurized heavy cream and whole milk) seems to significantly improve my workout recovery.  This means that I can train harder, and more often.  Also, I can just “feel” an enhanced well-being with raw dairy included in my diet.  Again, I know this sounds “woo-woo”, and in a “show me the science” day and age, not a very, er….shall we say, “ringing endorsement”.  Such as it is, though, those are my thoughts on the matter.  So it comes down to this: do I wait for hard science to justify what it is that I “know” to be true — at least for myself — already?  Do I need science to do this for me?  And will science ever do this for me?  In my mind, this is akin to waiting for science to acknowledge the legitimacy of my training methods before employing those methods.  And again, I stress that I am absolutely not a scientific Luddite — it’s just that science — and exercise science specifically — is way behind the n=1 curve here, and is currently playing catch-up to many, many years of trail-and-error, n=1 experimentation.  I choose not to turn a blind eye to that solid, empirical knowledge, simply because it was not lab/university produced.  In fact, one of the major downfalls to exercise science is that fact that the test subjects, by and large, aren’t drawn from the black-iron-and-chalk-dust dungeons — the very place where so much quality n=1 empirical “science” has been honed/refined over the years.  Know this: I am, if nothing else, an equal opportunity whore when it comes to matters of ascertaining what works — show me the proven results, that’s what ultimately matters to me.  Whether that comes from the lab/university environment or from the black-iron lab, to me, matters not.


On the workout front –

Tuesday, 3/15/11
Negative-only work with Skyler Tanner, with an emphasis on the XCCentric leverage equipment; check it out:

Thursday, 3/17/11 –

(A1) neg only flat press, XC bench: +140/7, 6, 6 (60×0 tempo)
(A2) blast strap flyes, feet elevated: BW/12, 12, 12
(A3) inverted L pull-ups: BW/10, 10, 6

Friday, 3/18/11 –

(A1) seated DB lateral raise: 25/15, 15, 15
(A2) front raise: 45lb plate/12, 12, 12

(A3) band pull-a parts: red/12, 12, 10

(B1) cable tri extension, lunge position: 125/15, 140/15
(B2) XC dual handle bi curl: (+20)/12, 12

Sunday, 3/20/11 –

Field sprints!   And other bodyweight, playground fun.

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In health,



21 responses to “What to Eat Prior to a Workout

  1. Great one Keith. I wish I could handle dairy. my own n=1 experiment led me to establish that even raw dairy will cause some serious slime build up. Not exactly conducive to serious training.

    • That’s a bummer, Carla; but hey, establishing these things is what n=1 is all about. What about yogurt and/keifer; same result?

      • I’m the same way – dairy just messes me up. Yogurt, too; kefir, not so much.

        I got turned on recently to cultured coconut milk – and I’m loving it. Seems to do just fine. (I’m doing it for the pre/pro-biotics, essentially, besides the fact I’m a dog for anything coconut-related.)

    • Yeah, a good, hard-and-heavy negative only workout hits the spot now and again. The key, of course, is “now and again”; this stuff will wreck you if done too often 🙂

  2. Keith,

    Where do you get your raw dairy from? I live down here in San Antonio but am looking for a source that is within reasonable driving distance. Thanks and keep up the great post!


    • I actually have a supplier who delivers, which, as you know is (here in Texas, anyway), an offence punishable with some stiff jail time. Don’t get me going on how fracked-up these laws are, as I’ll just blow a gasket. Anyway, I think there is a farm out in the Seguin area that sells raw dairy if you’re willing to drive out there to pick up. Sorry, but I am unsure of the name; a little googling might shed some light, though.

    • @Steve,

      There were a few San Antonio area sources listed on http://www.realmilk.com/where.html

      Depending on your location the following might be a good place to start.

      La Coste: Miller Farms is 15 miles west of San Antonio. This is a family farm with Jersey and Jersey cross cows. This farm is a licensed Grade A Raw Milk for retail dairy. Raw milk is available by the gallon. For information or to arrange a pick up please call at (210) 508-1733. E-Mail is milfam1212@aol.com


  3. Just got my hands on some raw dairy this week and I’m loving it so far: butter, whole milk and kefir (this one tastes something like liquid cheese).

    Keith, what’s your take on kefir post workout rather than milk? I wonder if it has the same benefit minus a little bit of the lactose.

    • Yeah, I think kefir is a fine — and maybe even better? – substitute for milk. Certainly for folks sensitive to lactose, it’s the better option.

  4. Keith,

    interesting blog.

    It’s great to focus at nutrition in relation to performance and fat burning results.

    In my experience my strength levels when fasted are at about 95% plus of my best.

    It’s really not a problem if you do it right, I must agree …

    Keep up the good stuff !;-)


  5. Keith,
    I just started getting raw milk here in Wisconsin (it’s jail time here also, so much for the “dairy state”) haven’t had a problem after 2 years w/o milk. Anyway just wondering how much milk you roll PWO?
    Great blog, always enjoy!

    • It’s usually about a pint of 50/50 mix of raw, unpasteurized whole milk and raw, unpasteurized cream. Friggin’ little bit of heaven, I must say! I try to wait about an hour post-workout to down this, but sometimes life and or my trainee load intervenes, so it may wind up being immediately following…or hours later.

      • Keith,
        I must agree,it’s heaven! Goes great in the americano also! If found this site http://www.pastureraised.net/blogs/news/2535022-overview-recap
        You can order raw milk and other grass-fed products. you have to pay a “membership fee” to join, but i’ve been very happy with the service, they have the best butter.
        Don’t mean to spam, just passing on info!
        Keep up the outstanding blog, really enjoy your paleo “food porn” shots!
        Chuck O

        • No, no, not at all- thanks for passing along the great info. Do you happen to know where this particular place is? Or do they utilize local (relative to the customer) , approved sellers, with they themselves acting as a buyers agent? Just curious.

          • Keith,
            William Bradford
            Pasture Raised Coordinator
            Phone: (717) 884-8729
            Fax: (866) 238-6689
            He can answer all the questions you might have. I recently was able to secure a farmer near by that offer grass fed raw milk, so i only used this service once, very happy with the products ( raw heavy cream, raw butter, and raw milk) The farmers are located in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

  6. My 2.5 year old daughter starts off every morning with a bottle of raw cow-milk and some goat-milk kefir and a splash of high-vitamin fermented raw cod liver oil (Green Pastures brand). She’s the healthiest toddler I’ve ever known! Nuff said.

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