Eating before working out

A big fitness myth that has been floating around forever is that working out on an empty stomach will help you burn more fat. But this has been proven totally untrue. Find out the facts!

The Truth: You should always eat something before exercising so your body has enough fuel to power through your workout.

The rationale behind this widely accepted myth is that forgoing food before exercise will force your body to burn more fat during your workout. This is a big, fat lie: Starving yourself before exercising can actually be detrimental to your body.

Your body needs a certain amount of sugar for fuel when training. When that blood sugar is not there, your body will convert your own muscle tissue into energy. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at cyclists who ate before they trained versus those who fasted before they trained. The amount of fat burn was the same for both groups, but those who had trained without eating first had 10 percent of their calorie burn come from protein — including their own muscle mass. You’re trying to maintain muscle, not eat away at it.

Plus, your body needs energy to perform at a high intensity. And nowadays it’s common knowledge the intensity training will have greater effects at an accelerated pace. How can you do that if you haven’t properly fueled your body? Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? Use your iPhone without charging it? Nope and nope. If you haven’t eaten anything, your workout won’t be as intense as if you’d fueled up beforehand. You won’t have the strength, speed, or stamina to burn those calories and speed up your results because you’ll likely suffer from low blood sugar, which will make you dizzy and sluggish.

You don’t need to gorge yourself; a healthy snack will do the trick. I suggest you eat something 45 minutes to an hour before training. No sooner, because that can cause cramps and make you sick during your workout. Aim for something with carbohydrates and protein. Here are a few quick, healthy snack ideas: a whey shake, organic greek yogurt with berries and crushed walnuts, or a slice of whole grain toast with almond butter and banana slices.

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3 Ways to Move After Eating Too Much

Photo: Getty Images/boonchai wedmakawand

Overdo it in the food department? It happens to the best of us (and hey, eating more can sometimes even be the secret to weighing less). While that so-full-I’m-going-to-pop feeling is no fun, there are better ways to combat it than plopping down on the couch or taking a nap (seriously, bear with us!). Exercise after eating too much can actually help with digestion, get your circulation pumping, and give you a little bit of energy-so, you know, you can feel more like yourself. (BTW, here’s what nutrition pros suggest doing when you eat too much.)

Ready to move? Here, what experts suggest doing post-overindulgence.

Do Some Yoga

If you’re in a food coma, an intense workout might be too aggressive. But yoga can get your insides moving and your body back to normal in just 15 minutes. According to yoga instructor Tamal Dodge, there are two easy yoga poses you can do to help with digestion and increase your energy levels (of course, these 8 yoga poses that help with digestion work, too). First? Easy Pose or Sukasana. Start seated with legs crossed. “Place your hand on the knees and draw in the stomach and lift the chest, rolling the shoulders back and down close the eyes for one to two minutes,” Dodge says.

The second exercise after eating too much? Anuloma Viloma alternate nasal breathing. Start seated in Sukasana then place left hand on left knee, and take right hand and open right palm. With right palm open, pull down right index and middle finger. Take right thumb and close right nostril, taking a big inhale through left open nostril. At top of inhale, close left nostril with ring and pinky finger so that both nostrils are shut. Pause briefly, then move right thumb off right nostril and exhale out of right nostril. Keep right nostril open and inhale through right nostril. At top of inhale, close right nostril with thumb and pause. Exhale out of left nostril and inhale through left nostril. Then close it and exhale out of right. “Keep going like this, inhaling and exhaling out of each nostril for one minute. Repeat two to three times,” he says.

Go for a Walk

One easy way to get your dinner digesting better is to do some easy low-impact cardio post-binge. Whether it’s a quick jaunt around the block or a longer one, a walk is good exercise after eating too much, says Ariane Hundt, a New York City-based trainer and founder of the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. Even more: Research showed that walking with hand and ankle weights comparable to slow running. And mixing short, fast walks with longer, more leisurely ones was an effective way to lose belly fat. (Related: 7 Reasons You’re Not Losing Belly Fat)

Work Your Core

After eating too much, it’s natural to want to target your core. It’s also a good area to focus on. After all, core strength is critical to pretty much every activity you do. But crunches or planks aren’t your only options. Only have 10 minutes? Try this 10-minute cardio-core workout or try these-the only two core exercises you really need.

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Your body is your vehicle, so you have to keep your engine running when you work out. That means fueling up your body by eating the right foods and drinking the right fluids, in the right amounts at the right times.

The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.”
“You don’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule and there are no hard-fast rules,” said Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., a nutrition consultant for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “But there are some things you should do before, during and after you work out.”

Here is what Ms. Platt recommends:

Before: Fuel Up!

Not fueling up before you work out is like “driving a car on empty,” said Platt, an American Heart Association volunteer. You also won’t have enough energy to maximize your workout and you limit your ability to burn calories.

Ideally, fuel up two hours before you exercise by:

  • Hydrating with water.
  • Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoiding saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein — because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.

If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana.

“The key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don’t feel sluggish,” Platt said.

During: Make a Pit Stop.

Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water.

Platt notes that you don’t need to eat during a workout that’s an hour or less. But, for longer, high-intensity vigorous workouts, she recommends eating 50-100 calories every half hour of carbohydrates such as low-fat yogurt, raisins, or banana.

After: Refuel Your Tank.

After your workout, Ms. Platt recommends refueling with:

  • Fluids. Drink water, of course. Blend your water with 100% juice such as orange juice which provides fluids, carbohydrates.
  • Carbohydrates. You burn a lot of carbohydrates — the main fuel for your muscles — when you exercise. In the 20-60 minutes after your workout, your muscles can store carbohydrates and protein as energy and help in recovery.
  • Protein. Eat things with protein to help repair and grow your muscles.

It’s important to realize that these are general guidelines. We have different digestive systems and “a lot depends on what kind of workout you’re doing,” Platt said.
So do what works best for you. Know that what you put in your body (nutrition) is as important as you what you do with your body (exercise). Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best.

It’s hard to perform your best at the gym or set a new PR when you’re stomach is growling. However, finding a good pre-workout snack can be tricky. Eat too much and you’ll feel sluggish; barely eat and you’ll be hangry.

So what makes the perfect pre-workout bite?

“There’s just not an easy answer,” says Sharon Collison, R.D. at the University of Delaware who is board certified in sports dietetics.

That’s because the right snack depends on a variety of factors including type and intensity of training, goals, timing of your impending workout, and individual tolerance. In fact, some people may not even need a snack.

But there are a few things to keep in mind when determining when and what to eat before you hit the weight room. Here are four things to consider, plus easy snack ideas that you can grab before training. Combine them with some water to help replace the fluids you lose while you sweat.

Embrace carbs

You’ll want to avoid foods that are super high in fat or fiber because they could make you feel sick, says Collison.

“Fat and fiber take longer to digest, so it’s just not comfortable in the gut,” says Collison. “The closer it is to exercise the more you just want carbohydrates.”

Eating carbs before an endurance workout has been shown to improve performance, according to a review published in the journal Nutrients. That’s because when you’re grinding it out in the gym, your body requires a lot of energy, which primarily stems from carbohydrates, while protein helps keep your muscles from breaking down, so it’s important to get that balance right.

Eat at the right time

“I think it’s most important to have a well-balanced meal within 3-4 hours of a workout that is at least of moderate intensity,” says Collison. “And then depending on hunger and/or how long the workout is, a pre-workout snack may be beneficial.”

If you do snack, you’ll want to give your body enough time to process all those nutrients before your sweat session. When you’re exercising hard, your blood moves to your muscles, meaning less of it will travel to the organs digesting your food. This can cause an upset stomach or even decrease your performance if you don’t time things right.

When you pair carbs with high amounts of protein, fiber, or fats, the digestion process takes longer. That means you can eat more protein and fat if you allow yourself more time process all that food. Collison suggests a banana or crackers if you have less than an hour before the workout. If you have at least 60 minutes, go ahead and add some cottage cheese.

Don’t overeat

Everyone needs a different amounts of food to feel satisfied, but Collison says it’s generally safe to go by the following rules:

  • Eat one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight one hour before working out.
  • Eat two grams of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight two hours before working out.
  • Eat three grams of carbohydrate per kilogram in body weight three hours before working out.

A snack isn’t always necessary

Not everyone needs to snack, says Collison. “The purpose of a snack is to keep you from starving from the next meal,” she says. As long as you ate a well-balanced meal several hours prior to working out, you will probably be fine. If you’re trying to lose weight, skipping a snack may be beneficial–as long as you’re not hungry, she says.

Snack suggestions if you have less than 60 minutes pre-workout:

  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Cereal and milk
  • Packet of oatmeal made with milk: Collison says you can add raisins, chocolate chips, and fruit, but keep protein to a minimum.
  • Chocolate milk and banana
  • Chocolate milk and granola bar

Snack suggestions if you have more than 60-minutes pre-workout

Peanut butter banana honey sandwich: Spread 2 Tbsp of peanut butter on two slices of whole grain bread. Top with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey.

Fruit parfait: 1 cup of Greek yogurt, topped with 1 small handful of nuts, and 1 cup of berries. This combo offers protein from the yogurt, healthy fats, along with loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fruit smoothie: Blend this to maximize your performance:

  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein (this one tastes incredible and uses no artificial sweeteners)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 1 large handful spinach (trust me on this one)
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • Ice, depending on the consistency you like

Cinnamon banana overnight oats: Combine 1/2 cup whole oats with 1 cup high-protein milk in a jar. Stash away in your fridge and let it soak overnight. Top with one sliced banana, 2 Tbsp of raisins, and cinnamon to taste.

1/2 Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk: Collison recommends Fairlife milk because it has more protein than regular cow’s milk.

Cottage cheese: Add fresh or canned pineapple and whole grain crackers.

Chris Mohr, Ph.D., R.D. Chris Mohr, PhD, RD is the co-owner of Mohr Results, Inc (MohrResults.com) a well-being consulting company Melissa Matthews Health Writer Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men’s Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.

What to Eat Right before a Workout

Best meals before gym time? Check out our top five picks.

Gym bag packed, water bottle ready, both shoes found (score!) … but are you forgetting something? When it comes to working out, eating before you go can keep your blood sugar steady. That means plenty of energy for cardio and strength training.

Nutrition tip: Mix protein, healthy fats and a bit of good carbs. And sure, throw in some healthy desserts after (you’ve earned it!). Here are our top picks for what to eat right before a workout.

1. Whole grain toast, peanut or almond butter and banana slices

There’s a reason that runners love their post-race bananas — the fruit is packed with simple carbs, natural sugars and, best of all, potassium. That electrolyte helps prevent muscle cramps and can be lost through sweat. Peanut or almond butter has healthy fat, and the toast is all about blood-sugar-steadying complex carbs.

2. Chicken thighs, rice and steamed vegetables

Looking for the best meal before gym time? Consider this classic, which blends protein and complex carbs. Plus, the fiber in the veggies helps with digestion. Choosing chicken thighs over breasts is a personal preference, but dark meat has more of the good fat you need to keep from getting hangry during your workout.

3. Oatmeal, protein powder and blueberries

The complex carbs in oatmeal are broken down in your system slowly, which means more sustained energy. Up the nutrition by adding a scoop of protein powder. Fruit like blueberries, raspberries or cherries contain antioxidants — super helpful substances that help to prevent cell damage. Also: delicious.

4. Scrambled eggs, veggies and avocado

Go ahead, use the whole egg. They’re packed with high-quality protein and, if you’re including the yolk, you’ll get all eight essential amino acids. Those boost muscle building and recovery. Avocado gives you that healthy fat fix, and the veggies are nutrient-rich powerhouses, no matter which you pick.

5. Protein smoothie

Protein powder is a must — but after that, go for what you like best. Milk or almond milk, mixed berries, bananas, peanut butter, avocado, even some leafy greens are all fair game. You’ll get fast-digesting carbs, plus those healthy fats and protein.

Find what works for you

Maybe your bestie is the protein shake queen, but you try it and … blech. That’s okay. Like exercise, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-workout options. What to eat right before a workout means what’s right for you.

Also, pay attention to timing. If you’re going for a bigger pre-workout meal, aim for eating two or three hours before working out. But if you’re short on time, make your portion more of a snack and eat about 45 minutes before gym time. Then, notice how the timing affects you. Maybe you’re the 30-minutes-until-treadmill kind of eater, or it could be that your belly feels better with more digestion time.

Play around with food combos and timing, and you’ll be sure to find your best go-to meal before hitting the gym.

Pre and Post-Gym meals: What to eat before and after a work out, according to seven personal trainers

When it comes to exercise and diet, we are bombarded with conflicting information and it is difficult to know just exactly how we should be exercising and what we should be eating.

While some may think a one-hour gym session permits them to eat a pack of biscuits, others think they need to carbo-load before a workout. So what should you actually eat that won’t compromise the hard work you have put in on your run, power walk or spin class.

Additionally, when undertaking a new health kick or fitness regime, there is often confusion as to whether you can still indulge every now and again or if should you be sworn off carbs and sugar for all eternity.

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The Independent asked a selection of top personal trainers the best things to put in your body before and after a workout while also prying into what they really eat, despite their dedicated healthy living career path.

Shape Created with Sketch. The exercise it takes to burn off high-calorie foods

Show all 10 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Walk off: 26 minutes. Run off: 13 minutes. JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

2/10 Standard chocolate bar – 229 calories

Walk off: 42 minutes. Run off: 22 minutes. Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

3/10 Chicken and bacon sandwich – 445 calories

Walk off: 1 hour 22 minutes. Run off: 42 minutes. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

4/10 One quarter of a large pizza (449kcal)

Walk off: 1 hour 23 minutes. Run off: 43 minutes. Getty Images

5/10 Medium mocha coffee – 290kcal calories

Walk off: 53 minutes. Run off: 28 minutes. Getty Images

6/10 Packet of crisps – 171 calories

Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Evan-Amos/Creative Commons

7/10 Dry roasted peanuts – 50g – 296kcal

Walk off: 54 minutes. Run off: 28 minutes. Getty Images

8/10 Iced cinnamon roll – 420 calories

Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

9/10 One bowl of cereal – 172 calories

Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Getty Images

10/10 Blueberry muffin – 265 calories

Walk off: 48 minutes. Run off: 25 minutes. Isabelle Hurbain-Palatin/Creative Commons

1/10 Sugary soft drink – 330ml – 138 calories

Walk off: 26 minutes. Run off: 13 minutes. JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images Walk off: 42 minutes. Run off: 22 minutes. Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images Walk off: 1 hour 22 minutes. Run off: 42 minutes. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Walk off: 1 hour 23 minutes. Run off: 43 minutes. Getty Images Walk off: 53 minutes. Run off: 28 minutes. Getty Images Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Evan-Amos/Creative Commons Walk off: 54 minutes. Run off: 28 minutes. Getty Images Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Walk off: 31 minutes. Run off: 16 minutes. Getty Images Walk off: 48 minutes. Run off: 25 minutes. Isabelle Hurbain-Palatin/Creative Commons

Avoid carbs before working out

Nick Mitchell, CEO of Up Fitness, says: “You want fat and protein because you need stable blood sugar levels. What I have always found with carbs, is they tend to raise serotonin – the relaxing neurotransmitter. You want dopamine and acetylcholine – and protein and fat are going to be of greater assistance. This is why you crave chocolate and pizza when you’re stressed: Because it calms the nervous system down.

What needs to be a pre-workout meal is the thing that keeps you awake, if you eat a big bowl of pasta you are likely to want to go to sleep two hours later. So red meat, nuts and coffee, coconut oil and Boom! You’re away. It’s better than porridge oats, banana and egg whites. However, it’s whatever works best for you.

I have a re-feed day. The basic premise behind this is that as the body ‘flattens out’ and becomes over-trained and mentally and physically exhausted, then a short period of planned overfeeding will shock the metabolism, raise energy levels, kick-start any potential slowing down of the fat loss process, and (just as importantly for long-term adherence to any diet) make you feel human again.

Have a small snack beforehand

Frankie Holah, Personal Trainer says: “The key is to have energy before working out so I stick to either a piece of fruit, smoothie or energy ball at least an hour before I train. You definitely don’t want to over eat and feel sick. Post-session, you want to focus on re-fuelling and helping your muscles to repair, so protein is needed. Get something in your system as soon after as possible like a protein shake if you use it or protein ball or bar. Within the next hour and a half, try and get a balanced meal in which includes carbohydrates, protein and fats to refuel the body.

“I’ve never been one to count calories so I just try and keep meals and snacks balanced and as natural as possible. Breakfast is often porridge with nuts and almond milk or eggs and avocado if I’m at home. Most days it’s frittata and salad for lunch and dinner is usually a big pot meal of Dahl or veggie chili with brown rice or quinoa. I’m all about balance – I keep it minimal in the week but Friday evenings I’m usually pretty tired, so it is a nice glass of red wine and green and blacks chocolate. At the weekend, I usually can’t resist a piece of carrot cake.

Don’t omit carbs from your diet entirely

Hollie Grant, a personal trainer at Pilates PT, says: “When we exercise we create tiny micro-tears in our muscles. This can be felt as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) usually around 48 hours after a workout and is the deep muscle pain that makes it impossible to walk the stairs or get out of chairs without wincing. Protein works to patch these up therefore it’s important to ensure you eat a meal containing protein usually within 30 to 60 minutes after your workout.

“Many people seem to avoid carbohydrates nowadays but if you want to get the most from your training they are vital as they are broken down into Glycogen which fuels the muscles during intense exercise.

“I eat three to four meals a day and I try to base them around a balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. I do not avoid any foods in particular (I am known to enjoy chocolate, beer and pizza) and believe in exercise rather than diets. I start the day usually with scrambled eggs and black beans or buckwheat porridge with banana and pecans. For lunch I usually eat a frittata, prawn stir fry or lentil dal. For dinner I eat homemade steak burritos, wholegrain spaghetti with sprouts and lemon or a homemade chickpea curry.

Wait at least 30 minutes before eating after exercise

Mario Kaspers, Trainer at E-Pulsive, says: “To build muscle, it is very important your body gets the nutrition it needs. Before a workout, I typically have a vegan protein shake about 30 minutes before the workout, nothing too heavy. After the workout, for me protein is key. I ensure I wait at least 30 minutes because as soon as you start eating your body will stop producing the growth hormone key for building muscle. When I do eat I like to have a chicken salad, also make sure you stay hydrated during those 30 minutes.

Refuelling your body with sugar after exercise is a ‘myth’

Personal trainer Matt Roberts says: “Pre-exercise, a combination of carbs and proteins are needed in order to give you the sugar and the amino acids that will give you the greatest response. Poached eggs, toast and avocado, Chicken and couscous, salad nicoise are all good examples of what to eat around 60-90 minutes before exercise.

“After finishing, the assumption is that a sugar refuel is required, it is a bit of a myth and what you actually need after intensive exercise is some amino acid replacement as you have microscopically torn fibres. Personally, my main focus is on the post-exercise refuel as my diet is balanced enough to not be too concerned about pre-exercise fuelling, and as a post-exercise routine I eat boiled eggs, avocado and spinach.

Eat ‘simple’ carbohydrates beforehand

Esmee Gummer, a personal trainer at 1Rebel, says: ““Before a workout simple carbs are great as they are digested fast and provide quick energy. I always train in the morning so my day starts with porridge which I add peanut butter, banana or berries to. After a workout, if I’ve got time, If I’ve got time I have a second breakfast of scrambled eggs and avocado.”

It is important to treat yourself

Ruben Tabares, strength and conditioning coach, says: “I personally have never eaten before a workout, it always makes me feel unwell especially if I am doing a high-intensity session. If the stomach is digesting food, then it is using blood to do so and that blood could better be used in the muscles, hence why people feel sick when working out. If I had to advise people to eat something before they worked out then it would be something light which is easy to digest such as a fruit smoothie with spinach and superfoods.

“After a workout, it depends on what I am trying to achieve, if it’s fat burning after a HIT session, then I only eat salad and protein as carbohydrates will stop the fat burning effects of growth hormone. If it’s recovery then I definitely will eat carbs such as baked plantain or sweet potato, brown rice etc. I always make sure at least 60 per cent of my food is raw and the rest cooked with lots of healthy fats.

“I have an indulgence day once a week where I eat whatever I fancy on that day; it is important to treat yourself and enjoy the pleasures life and food has to offer. I never feel guilty about anything I eat and I try to make all my meals as tasty, healthy and imaginative as possible.”

What To Eat Before A Morning Workout

Many successful people make morning workouts a regular part of their workday routine to boost their energy and get set for a powerful day ahead. It’s a great way to fit some essential self-care into your day first thing so that, no matter what else happens, you did something nice for yourself to support your overall health and well-being. Studies have also backed up the benefits exercise has on the mind and body.

While midday and evening exercise is also great, for many busy folks, the morning is their prime time. My nutrition clients who lace up their sneakers to greet the sun say it’s because it feels good to get it out of the way and helps them get into a can-do mindset so they feel they can tackle whatever the day throws at them. It also sidesteps the issue of trying to juggle the gym with other after-work commitments or carving out time later, when their schedule is less predictable.

A common question about morning workouts is this: Should you eat before? And if yes, what should you eat?

Barbara J. Chin, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian-nutritionist at New York’s Hospital For Special Surgery, says it depends. “Activities that may be lower in intensity or are more for leisure instead of an outcome of performance, eating beforehand may not necessarily be essential, but it’s still recommended.” However, for more intense activities like cardio (think running, cycling or swimming), strength training, or exercise with high repetition of movements like gymnastics, dancing or martial arts, she says, pre-exercise nutrition is vital.

If you’re not adequately fueled, she explains, “your body will likely be more sluggish and will fatigue much more quickly. You won’t be able to exercise as fast or for as long won’t be able to lift as much weight or do as many repetitions.”

A PB&J makes great pre-workout fuel, depending on the timing.

Jessica Cording Nutrition

What Counts As Fuel?

Long Island, NY-based dietitian Linzy Ziegelbaum, who works with athletes of all ages, says, “Our bodies need glucose for energy. The carbohydrates that we eat before we exercise are what give us glucose. If we exercise in a fasting state, glucose is not available for our muscles. This can lead to feeling weak, dizzy or lightheaded.” Hydration is also key, she adds.

Exactly what to eat before your workout depends on the type of exercise, your weight and how long beforehand you’re eating. In general, you want to eat easily digestible carbohydrates and go slow on high-fiber, high-protein, and high-fat foods if you’re eating less than an hour before your workout, since these foods slow digestion and can cause GI discomfort.

Many trainers, dietitians, and sports nutritionists break it down into grams of carbohydrate depending on how long before your workout you’re eating. Chin explains, “For strength resistance training, the ideal time to eat is about an hour before the workout, with at least 30-40 grams of carbohydrate and 10-20 grams of protein. For cardiovascular endurance exercise, the timing can be more flexible, but the makeup of these meals are different depending on when you eat.” She breaks it down like this for her clients:

– 30 minutes before: 30 grams carbohydrate, minimal protein

-One hour before: 60-70 grams carbohydrate, 5-10 grams protein

-Two hours before: 120-140 grams carbohydrate, 15-20 grams protein

If you’ve never tried peanut butter and jelly on a sweet potato, you’re in for a treat!

Jessica Cording Nutrition

What That Looks Like In Real Life

To give you a few real-life examples of what those breakdowns might look like, consider these dietitian-approved pre-workout snacks:

30 minutes before cardio:

-A large banana or two small pieces of fruit

-A slice of white bread with one tablespoon of jam

-¼ cup of dried fruit

60 minutes before cardio:

-A PB&J on white bread and one cup of grapes or a small piece of fruit

-One cup of a low-fiber cereal with a 1/2 cup of milk and one banana

-¾ cup of yogurt with one large banana or one cup of low-fiber cereal

-Two whole grain waffles with two tablespoons of syrup and jam

-One serving of pretzels or graham crackers with nut butter

-½ a cup of cooked oatmeal with a piece of fruit

30-60 minutes before strength/resistance exercise:

-¾ cup Greek yogurt with ¼ cup granola

-Two ounces of turkey on two slices of bread

-¼ cup of trail mix made with nuts and dried fruit

-One medium sweet potato topped with nut butter or Greek yogurt

-A smoothie made with fruit and either yogurt or milk

The higher protein and fiber content of Greek yogurt and strawberries is great fuel when you have an… hour or more before a workout.

Jessica Cording Nutrition

You Do You

All that said, if you have a go-to pre-workout snack that doesn’t fit those guidelines, what matters most is that it works for you and helps you meet your goals.

Ziegelbaum encourages her clients to try different things to figure out what works for them. “Eating before exercise requires trial and error, and I recommend experimenting with different pre workout snacks, even waking up slightly earlier to eat. Even just one banana right before a workout can improve the performance of morning exercisers.”

Read this article to find out the top ten pre-workout foods.

The Benefits Of Eating Pre-Workout Foods

So, let’s start by talking about why you should be eating pre-workout, i.e. before a workout. Many people carry out what’s called fasted cardio, in an attempt to burn and lose body fat, but unless you’re carrying out this cardio from 6am – 7am, you need to fuel your body before each and every workout.

Ultimately, you should picture your body like a car – you can’t expect to drive 150 miles with no petrol in the tank, can you? If you’re looking to perform and train at your best, you need to make sure your body has enough fuel to do so. If you fail to provide yourself with the energy and nutrients required during exercise, the chances are you won’t see results as quickly as you should. Plus, over a long period of time, the likelihood of becoming ill or injured will be increased.

1. Gives You More Energy

Our bodies use carbohydrates and glycogen as the first source of fuel. This is because carbohydrates and stored glycogen can be converted into ATP (adenoise triphosphate, i.e. energy) faster than protein and fat. Therefore, filling up your glycogen stores pre-workout will mean you’ll have more energy to perform at your best.

2. Prevent Muscle Catabolism

When we exercise, glycogen stores are quickly used up and depleted, so the body looks for new sources of energy – our muscles. By breaking down hard-earned muscle, the body can utilise amino acids for energy. This is bad, as it puts our bodies into a catabolic state, which can prevent muscle growth and recovery.

3. Increase Muscle Anabolism

Eating the right foods pre-workout means you won’t only top up your glycogen stores, but by eating a good source of protein, you’ll also be able to promote muscle-protein synthesis and create an anabolic environment in the body.

What and When to Eat Pre-Workout

In every meal, you need to consider the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats. You also need to consider the ratio in which you are eating them.

FATS Pre-workout, it’s best to avoid too much fat. This is because, although high in energy with 9kcal per gram, fats are slow-digesting. This means, instead of making you energetic, they can actually make you feel sluggish and heavy. PROTEIN Pre-workout meals containing protein provide us with a major benefit – the prevention of muscle catabolism. By consuming a good source of protein before a workout, you can give your body the amino acids (branched-chain amino acids in particular) that it needs to prevent muscle breakdown, whilst aiding muscle recovery and growth. CARBOHYDRATES

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple, high glycaemic index carbohydrates, and complex, low glycaemic index carbohydrates. But which one is best pre-workout?

This ultimately depends on your goal and the time of your pre-workout meal. Simple carbohydrates are great for 30 minutes to an hour before a workout, as they provide the body with fast-acting glucose as fuel. However, complex carbohydrates also play a role within energy metabolism. By consuming low GI carbohydrates around 2-3 hours before a workout, you can give your body a slow-releasing source of energy. This means you’ll be able to work out for longer and be less likely to have a dip in your blood sugar levels in the middle of your workout.

TIMING

30 Minutes to an Hour Pre-Workout:

Consume light meals and foods which contain simple carbohydrates and some protein.

2-3 Hours Pre-Workout:

Consume a meal around 400- 500 calories containing a good source of protein (around 20g) and complex low GI carbohydrates (20-30g).

Pre-Workout Foods

Bananas are a great source of natural sugars, simple carbohydrates, and potassium. In the body, potassium is only stored for a limited amount of time, so try consuming a banana around 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. Eating a banana pre-workout is the perfect way to boost your glycogen stores and increase blood sugar levels.

2. Chicken, Rice & Vegetables

The stereotypical healthy meal: chicken, rice, and vegetables. This is actually a classic pre-workout meal. Bycombining a good source of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, this meal can provide amino acids to promote anabolism (muscle growth) and a slow-releasing source of energy. Consume a meal like this around 2-3 hours before a workout.

3. Greek Yogurt and Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is high in sugar and high in calories. When it comes to dieting, dried fruit is generally avoided, however, this food is great to be consumed in measured amounts pre-workout to give a quick source of simple sugar. Consuming dried fruit with Greek yogurt can also provide the body with a source of protein to help optimise your workout. Consume a meal like this 1-1.5 hours before a workout.

4. Porridge and Oatmeal

Porridge and oatmeal make the ultimate pre-workout breakfast. This pre-workout food contains complex carbohydrates and is also a great source of the soluble fibre, beta-glucan. By consuming oats around 2 hours before a workout, you’ll be able to satisfy your hunger throughout your workouts whilst getting a great source of slow-releasing energy. Try adding a scoop of protein powder to your porridge. That way you’ll also get a great source of protein and amino acids.

5. Fruit Smoothies

Many people think fruit smoothies are great tasting and super-healthy. Whilst smoothies do provide a series of micronutrients that are beneficial for health and well-being, they’re also full of sugars, including fructose. This means that smoothies are often high in calories and what are often mistaken as drinks are actually meal replacements. However, consuming a fruit smoothie pre-workout is a great pre-workout meal option that can provide you with a good source of fast-acting glucose

6. Wholegrain Bread, Sweet Potato and Brown Rice

Wholegrain Bread, sweet potato, and brown rice are great sources of complex carbohydrates that should be consumed around 2-3 hours pre-workout. Combining these foods with a good source of protein means you’ll get a good source of slow-releasing energy to fuel you throughout a whole workout. Carbohydrates should be consumed by all those physically active but in particular those who carry out regular endurance activities such as cycling and running.

7. Apple Wedges and Peanut Butter

Enjoying sliced apple wedges with a small spread of peanut butter is tasty before a workout food. It’s perfect for consuming around 30 minutes before a workout.

8. Omelette

Omelettes made using whole eggs and egg whites are a great source of muscle-building protein and amino acids. Omelettes should be consumed 2-3 hours before a workout to avoid muscle catabolism and promote muscle growth.

9. Homemade Protein Bars

Homemade protein bars are super easy to make and perfect for a quick on the go pre-workout food. What’s more, you can control the content making bars that are high in carbohydrates and protein or low in carbohydrates and high in protein.

10. Protein Shakes

Last but not least, protein shakes. If you’re on the go and in a hurry or none of the above appeal to you, a quick protein shake can solve your pre-workout problems. By consuming a shake with a good source of fast-releasing protein, such as whey protein, with simple carbohydrates like maltodextrin powder, you can get all the pre-workout nutrients you need in a matter of minutes.

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You’re a fit dude. You skip the bad stuff, always do #legsday, and hit the heavy bag hard. But if you want your body to continue performing like a Lamborghini, then you’ve gotta put in the high-octane fuel—that means eating the right pre-workout foods.

Think about it: A sports car still functions with regular old unleaded gas—but it won’t run as optimally or as long. Likewise, “would you expect to get to your destination if the tank was on empty?” says Jordan Mazur, R.D., coordinator of nutrition and team dietitian for the San Francisco 49ers.

And while fasted cardio has always been a diet trend among people hoping to lose weight, “going into your workout fueled and ready to go will maximize the work you do when you train,” Mazur explains.

For your pre-workout nutrition, you want to focus on foods that are high in carbs, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber. “Fat and fiber slow down digestion and can cause gastrointestinal upset during your workouts,” Mazur says. “Carbs are your main fuel source for activity and, just as important, it’s the primary fuel source for your brain. Additionally, the more substantial the meal is, the more time you want to allow for digestion, so it’s not sitting in your stomach.”

Here are 10 meals and snacks that’ll pave the way for gains, whether you train in the gym or on the road.

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7 best pre-workout foods

Confused about what to eat before hitting the gym? Experts tell Lisa Antao the ideal foods
We live in an age where people take working out at the gym very seriously but in numerous cases, they head to their gym on an empty stomach either because they have succumbed to the notion that one shouldn’t eat before a workout or simply because they don’t know what to eat. But this doesn’t mean that you chow down heartily before your workout either. The key is to follow a middle path i.e. eating right at the right time.
Fitness expert Namrata Purohit explains, “Exercising with a full stomach is not ideal therefore eating at the right time is important. Even an empty stomach can distract a person during workout. The major source of fuel for the body is carbohydrate therefore it is ideal to have something rich in carbohydrates. Therefore, one must have easily digestible carbohydrates that can help prevent the hunger during exercise and give you energy.”
Here’s a list of foods that are considered ideal to eat before a workout:
Oatmeal
Having oatmeal is great before your morning workouts, when you’re running on an empty stomach and so you can’t have a meal a couple of hours before your workout. Oatmeal is known to settle well and also a great source of energy. If you add a dash of fruits to your oatmeal, even better.
Brown rice with chicken
While a majority of people work out in the mornings before heading to college or work, there are those who hit the gym in the evenings or at night due to time constraints. For them, having brown rice with chicken is a good option. Nutritionist Dr Zainab Sayed explains, “Brown rice is absorbed slowly and a good source of fibre and carbs while chicken is an ideal form of lean meat and protein. Thus, making this combination ideal before a workout. You would require about 200 to 300 calories hence, you can eat about one medium size bowl of brown rice (30 gm uncooked brown rice) with two pieces of chicken.”
Protein shakes
These are very popular among those who hit the gym. Namrata says, “Protein is extremely important for overall development of the muscles, bones and even skin. A protein shake is good if you do not receive adequate amount from natural sources. For athletes and people doing regular workouts, it is fine to have a protein shake after a workout, but not every couple of hours.” She warns that protein shakes can have side effects such as kidney damage. Therefore, one must consult the doctor to know the recommended daily dose of protein intake.
Bananas
They contain sugar and starch that give energy to the body. They are very rich in carbohydrates. Celebrity trainer Sameer Purohit says, “One medium-sized banana eaten about 45 minutes to an hour before your workout is generally enough to keep you going throughout your workout routine. It’s like adding fuel to the body. But each person should understand his body and cater to his/her own body needs.”
Peanut butter sandwich/Bagel with honey
Yes, you heard it right. But the trick here is to opt for whole wheat or multigrain bread for the sandwich and a whole wheat bagel instead. Honey is an excellent source of natural sugar i.e. energy. In case you’re wondering about the calorie count here, Dr Zainab addresses your concern explaining, “If you’re working out in the morning then have a brown bread peanut butter sandwich, since you have been fasting for the last eight to nine hours.”
Energy/Granola bars
Eating a pre-exercise bar means you’ll have more reserves during a workout. “Energy bars usually have carbs, which is what gives energy to the body. However, make sure your energy/granola bar has minimum amount of fat, proteins and fibre,” says Sameer.
Yoghurt
Curds or dahi contain calcium and proteins and a bit of natural sugar present in small quantities. Because it is easy on the stomach and the digestive system, it’s a great option to consume it before an intense workout. Adding some whole grain cereal, fruits or honey to yoghurt will give you a quick energy boost.

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