The question, “What should I eat?” comes to mind several times throughout the day, and the decision-making process can get even more complicated before you hit the gym or train outdoors. So, what should you eat before training?
When you want to improve your performance and enjoy your workouts in the process, proper fueling prior to your workouts should be a priority.
There are no perfect combinations of foods that guarantee optimal performance, since there are many individual factors that affect how each of us digests, absorbs and metabolises what we take in. But there are ways that work better than others, so here are 2 things to keep in mind to help you make smarter choices.
PRE WORK-OUT NUTRITION
1. Be mindful of your power fuel.
The meals and snacks you eat before you exercise play a huge role in the effectiveness of your workouts. A proper pre-workout meal with a combination of these 3 key components in your meal can maximise your efforts and results.
Before your workout, your large meal should be:
- high in carbohydrates (70-80%)
- moderate amounts of protein and fiber (15%)
- low in fat (less than 10%)
If you fuel correctly you’ll workout harder. This way, you can maximise carbohydrate stores (proper power food), thereby minimising muscle depletion (exhaustion).
2. Be mindful of the time between your meal and your workout.
It is important to time your pre-workout meal so that most of the food is out of the stomach, broken down, and absorbed out of the small intestine by the time exercise starts. We all do it: more often than not, our pre-workout food is eaten minutes before you start a workout. Sometimes, hours pass between the last meal and the next work out.
To optimise your performance, you should eat your last full meal at least 2 ½ – 3 hours before exercise to allow time for the digestive process to be well under way.
If you have 3-4 hours before training begins, eat the larger meal.
Here are some examples:
Pasta with tomato sauce
Rice or potatoes with chicken or tuna
Sandwiches or wraps (roast beef, turkey, peanut butter and jelly, tuna, egg)
Oatmeal or cereal with skim milk
Pizza (reduced cheese or vegetarian)
Bagels or toasts with peanut butter
Pancakes with honey
Smoothie with milk, oatmeal and fruit
Fruits with yogurt
If you have only 1 hour or 30 minutes to eat something before training, then just a small snack is needed.
Eating a regular meal prior to your training is preferable, but more often than not, we are in a situation that makes us not have good planning. Sometimes we are in a rush to exercise first thing in the morning, or we have to sneak out of job to train.
For those of us in a time crunch, here are some examples of healthy pre-workout snacks:
Cereal bar of approximately 150 calories
A handful or two of cereal (like cheerios)
A few wheat crackers
What is a “snack”?
A snack – not a meal, which usually takes time to prepare or cook – is eaten in a small share or portion of a handful, a cup, or a few.
Don’t overeat before you work out.
Eating too much can cause indigestion, sluggishness, nausea and vomiting.
Take a look at this flow as a guide:
What should you avoid?
- High fat and/or protein, low carbohydrate.
This combination leaves the stomach very slowly, which means you’ll feel full and sluggish and could cramp up easily. Examples: steak, bacon, sausage, ice cream, cream sauces, fast food
- Low carbohydrate, low calorie: salads, diet soft drinks
- Carbohydrates that are high in sugar
Although carbohydrates are good, you should not get them from sweets, because they can cause sugar rush and probably a crash while you’re mid-workout.
About the Author
Bochakorn began her education in conventional medicine as a nurse, then shifted to embrace natural healing and integrative medicines. Her training and certifications abroad include: Nutrition and Western Herbal Medicines, Acupuncture and Moxibustion.
During her therapeutic sessions, she may also incorporate other aspects of integrative medicines when required, including: acupuncture, cupping therapy, moxibustion, nutritional, supplements and herbal recommendation.