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What to Eat Before You Workout


If you Google “pre-workout meal,” you are bound to get a slew of answers that are varied and, in some cases, conflicting. The reason for this is your pre-workout meal is the most individualized meal of the day. Some people can eat a steak and run a marathon, while others can’t even think about food for hours before they workout. So the most honest answer to the pre-workout meal question is: “Whatever works best for you!”  However, if I answered all my clients’ questions like that I would be out of a job! So here are some guidelines to get you going in the right direction.

The majority of the energy used during exercise is from glycogen, which is stored using your post-workout meal from the day before (check out my blog post on what to eat after a workout).  However, what you eat in the hours before your workout will fuel you while your body begins to convert the glycogen. What this means is it will keep you from feeling light-headed or nauseous and give you the energy to push yourself so that you get the most out of your workout!

You want your pre-workout meal to be something that is easily digested and that converts to energy fairly quickly. Your meal should primarily be carbohydrate-based with a moderate amount of protein. Choose foods that are lower in fat and not high in fiber. This will help reduce the possibility of stomach cramping during your workout. Ideally, you want this meal to be between 200 and 300 calories and occur 1-2 hours before you exercise. This will give your body enough time to digest the food.

Some examples of a pre-workout meal are:

  • Whole wheat toast with 1 tbsp peanut butter and a banana
  • Low fat yogurt with fresh fruit
  • 1 hardboiled egg and 1 cup of fruit
  • Meal replacement bar (look for ~10 g of protein)
  • String cheese and 1 cup of baby carrots

If you are eating less than an hour before you workout, you will want to choose something that is very easily digested. Examples of this would be energy gels or a sports drink. These are designed to breakdown very quickly so they will give you energy to kick off your workout without making you feel nauseous.

Now go have a great, well-fueled workout!

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