Should I eat before a workout?
The answer is yes, absolutely! If you want to maximize your efforts and improve your training results, fueling-up pre-workout is a must. However, choosing the proper fuel, and in the correct amount, is imperative. Selecting the right pre-workout fuel source will have you feeling energized and ready to workout, whereas the wrong one or none at all will leave you feeling lethargic and demotivated.
Considerations to Choosing the Correct Pre-Workout Fuel Source
There are many considerations to choosing the correct fuel source. Some of the reasons for individual dietary selections would include: the time of day you are working out, the type of workout you will be doing and how your body handles digestion.
Depending on when you have chosen to incorporate a workout into your day will significantly affect what you should be eating pre-workout. Some people, who get up in the early morning to workout, will split their meal before and after their workout. Before the workout, they may only have a small bite to eat such as some fresh fruit with Greek yogurt, then afterwards, they may opt for a large protein shake or a more substantial choice of eggs and oatmeal or quinoa with either fruit or vegetables.
On the other end of the spectrum are people who exercise after work. In this case, lunch will most likely have been consumed 4-hours or more before the workout. It is important in this instance, to ensure there is an appropriate snack for a pre-workout fuel. About 30-minutes before a workout, have a protein/carbohydrate snack such as a banana with a small amount of nut or seed butter or a protein shake with berries and greens.
Another crucial variable, when contemplating a pre-workout snack and the timing of it, would be the type of activity you are about to do. Depending on whether your workout is high intensity interval training, long duration cardio or weight training, can strongly influence whether eating simple or complex carbs and/or protein would be more or less appropriate.
What to Eat Before a “Cardio Only” Session
Before cardiovascular activity, 75 – 100 percent of your snack should be composed of carbs for an activity lasting less than 40-minutes. However, if you plan on exercising more than 40-minutes, then have your snack approximately 60-minutes before your workout and include protein to help energize you for a longer period. Protein, in this case, could include yogurt, egg, cheese or an appropriate vegan alternative such as Quinoa or Tofu.
What to Eat Before a Weight Training Session
Weight training also requires that you pre-fuel your body with carbohydrates. Protein before a workout will help with your post-workout recovery and the process of muscle building.
Northern Arizona University Athletics recommends having a low-glycemic carb (such as a steel cut oatmeal) with a high quality protein (such as eggs or whey isolate) pre-workout meal. Low glycemic carbohydrates are advised because they are slower to digest which provides a steady source of energy.
It is important that you consume food 60- to 90-minutes before you go to the gym to do a resistance training program. Eating too soon before doing weights can lead to abdominal cramping or intestinal distress. You should wait for 2- to 3-hours after a large meal.
Check with your Naturopath or Nutritionist for more precise guidelines about fueling for your particular sport, if you are training for an event.
Make Sure You Are Always Prepared
The best way to fuel yourself for your workout is always to be prepared. It isn’t as hard as it sounds with just a little bit of effort and planning.
Bananas are amazing due to the fact they are easily transported. They are perfect for when you are short on time and need to fuel up quickly. Bananas offer an excellent source of potassium, and they are an electrolyte which helps to rebalance the body when you sweat during heavy workouts.
Dried fruit and nuts are easy grab-and-go options. Just a few small handfuls of a dried fruit and nut trail mix can do in a pinch. They are high in nutrients, combining carbs, healthy fats and protein in small portable portions. Be sure to use dried fruit and nuts sparingly as they are calorie dense.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and what works for you may not work for someone else. Take time to experiment and tweak what gives you the best results. You will find that some foods fuel you throughout a workout while others leave you feeling fatigued. Keep a journal of what works best so that when a sporting event comes up, you will be able to review what gave you the best results so you can perform at your best!
Cathie Glennon – BCRPA/SFL