You need to eat food to fuel a workout, which is a great excuse to devour your favorite snack prior to hitting the gym. Exercising on an empty stomach may leave you feeling weak or nauseas and won't give you the energy your body needs to perform at its best.
However, through years of trial and error I have learned that certain foods are better to consume pre-workout than others in terms of energy, performance and digestion. Today I will be sharing these foods, as well as, foods that should be avoided before hitting the gym.
Foods to avoid eating pre-workout
Fiber filled foods
Although fiber foods are highly recommended to consume daily for maintaining regular bowel movements and for stabilizing blood sugar levels throughout the day, consuming these foods pre-workout isn't recommended. Why? Fiber foods take longer to digest and are harder for your digestive system to break down compared to other foods. This may lead to GI distress when consumed prior to exercising, as well as, bloating, gas or stomach cramps. Instead, reach for foods that are easily digested, including fruits and simple carbohydrates.
Carbonation in fizzy drinks can often cause bloating, nausea, gas and stomach cramping when consumed prior to exercising. Instead, try to stick to still water, green tea or coffee. If you want some added flavor or electrolytes in your water, either add some fresh fruit or lemon or add a powdered version of pedialyte to your drink. This is especially beneficial when working out in hot climates or when sweating a lot during movement.
Consuming healthy fats throughout the day is critical for optimal hormone regulation, hair skin and nails, however, it is best to avoid consuming high fat foods before your workout and here is why. Foods high in fat such as, nuts, avocado, oils etc. slow down digestion and take much longer for your body to digest. When consumed too close to your workout, your digestive system will be still in the process of digesting your meal, which will slow down performance and make you feel sluggish and tired. If you want to include fats in your pre-workout meal, make sure to allow at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours before exercising.
Vegetables like Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts & Cauliflower are important vegetables to include in your diet, however, when consumed prior to exercising you will end up feeling gassy and bloated. Cruciferous vegetables are high in raffinose, an indigestible carbohydrate that can trigger abdominal discomfort. Try to eat your vegetables during other hours of the day to limit any discomfort or smelly farts.
If you love cheese, milk, yogurt or other diary products, try to limit these foods prior to working out. Diary products can be hard to digest for some people and the fat content in most diary products increase rate of digestion. If you enjoy drinking smoothies pre-workout, try to replace your usual milk or yogurt with plant-based milk options, including Almond Milk, Cashew Milk or Soy Milk.
Foods to consume Pre-Workout
A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise. If you eat fat with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before your workout.
Keep in mind that different foods work for different people in terms of digestion, taste and preference. Therefore, I highly recommend trying out different meals, as well as, different approaches to timing between eating and training to figure out what foods/method works best for you.
If your workout starts within 2-3 hours
1. Sandwich on Whole-Grain Bread, Lean Protein Source, Avocado or Cheese + Side Salad
2. Protein Oats with Berries + one serving of Natural Peanut or Almond Butter
3. Lean Protein, Whole Grain Rice or Pasta + 1 serving of Olive Oil
If your workout starts within 2 hours
1. Lean Protein (Chicken, Turkey, Fish) with Jasmine Rice or Pasta
2. Cereal with Banana + Plant-Based Milk + Chia Seeds
3. Toast or Bagel with Lean Protein + Sliced Avocado
If your workout starts within 1 hour or less
1. Rice Cakes with Sliced Banana & Honey + Protein Shake
2. Fresh or Dried Fruit - Pineapple, Banana, Orange, Mixed Fruit Cup, Raisins
3. Carbohydrate Drink
I hope you enjoyed today's read and learned something new. For more topics and weekly recipes, check out our socials or sign up to our weekly newsletter to never miss another post.
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