Written by IHRSA
Deciding what to eat day to day can be challenging. Choosing the best thing to eat – a meal that will give you energy to get in a good workout without making you feel too full, sick, or hungry – before you head to the gym can be even more challenging. Every workout is different, so how you fuel up for each one will be different too. You probably wouldn’t eat the same breakfast before an hour on the treadmill as you would before a yoga class.
Nutrients You Need
The two main nutrients your body needs prior to a workout are carbohydrates and protein.
Carbohydrates are the most readily available form of energy and provide fuel for the body. Eating enough carbohydrates before you workout will provide the energy needed to complete the workout. On the other hand, not eating enough could mean you hit the wall before your spin class is over. This can result in a less effective workout, and who wants to get less out of their workout if they made the effort to get to the gym in the first place?
Protein helps prevent hunger from setting in during the workout.
Nutrients to Avoid (Or Eat Less Of)
Within 2-3 hours of a workout it is a good idea to avoid high fat and high fiber foods (like pizza or cruciferous veggies like broccoli). Both of these foods take longer to digest than protein and carbohydrates. Too much fat too close to a workout can leave you feeling full, almost like exercising with a stone in your stomach, and too much fiber can cause upset stomach or stomach cramping, especially during higher impact exercise like running.
What Are The Best Foods?
It is important to eat a meal or snack higher in carbohydrates and moderate in protein before a workout. Carbohydrates should be easy to digest and familiar to you. If you’re just starting out and don’t know what works best for you, try out a few things on shorter or middle distance workouts. Try easily digested carbohydrates like apples, and dried fruit with lean protein like lower sodium deli meat, chicken breast, or jerky. Protein should come from lean sources like chicken, deli meat, or jerky. Also watch out for “protein bars” as the may have more fiber and fat than is optimal.
Pre Workout Meal Ideas
If your pre workout meal is breakfast - try 2 eggs, 2 slices of Canadian bacon, 1 8 oz glass of OJ, and 1 banana.
If your pre workout meal is lunch – try a whole wheat sandwich with 3 ounces grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, and any other vegetables, and an apple.
If your pre workout meal is a snack – try a Greek yogurt, or if you only have an hour, a piece of fruit.
What do you like to eat before you hit the gym?