So you've got everything you need to workout – gym clothes, gym bag, bottle of water – but are you possibly forgetting something? Have you eaten? You may think it best to not eat before a workout, thinking you're burning or saving more calories, but the truth is that skipping food beforehand will actually hurt you instead of help. Not eating enough before a workout can make you dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated, or lethargic. It can also make you more likely to injure yourself. Think about it this way – if you're headed out on a long car trip, would you skip going to the gas station first? Of course not! Just like the car, your body needs fuel to perform at its best. Read on to learn more about what exactly you should be eating – and when – pre-workout.
First, the whens. If you have time to eat 2-3 hours before working out, your best bet is a meal of 300-400 calories. Only have 1-2 hours? Have a snack around 200 calories. And if you only have time 30 minutes before your workout, a snack mostly made of carbs is best. If it's been more than 3 hours since you've eaten, you should eat again but don't eat any closer than 30 minutes out from your work out. That way you're not still digesting when you hit the gym floor, but you haven't gone and used up all those helpful calories yet. Oh, and if you work out in the mornings, don't worry about eating a full breakfast beforehand. A light breakfast or quick snack should suffice. Experiment to see which time frame works for you and gives you the best results.
Now on to what you should be eating pre-workout. Pre-workout, it’s best to avoid too much fat. Although high in energy, fats are slow-digesting, so instead of making you energetic, they can actually make you feel sluggish and heavy. That's a feeling that definitely won't get you through that workout!
What you DO need are carbs. Carbs are important because they give you energy – which you definitely need for a work out! When we eat carbs our bodies break them down into glucose; our muscles store that glucose and dip into those reserves when you're putting them to work. Eating carbs before working out means you'll have plenty of extra reserves on hand if needed. What happens if you don't? That's when you'll feel weak, tired, light-headed and ready to call it quits. So be sure to consume those carbs! What kind? Simple carbs work great for the 30 minutes to hour window before a workout because they break down quickly and provide fast energy. If you're able to eat 2-3 hours ahead, however, complex carbs are ideal as they'll give your body a slow-release source of energy, meaning you'll be able to workout for longer and have less dips in blood sugar levels. Some examples of pre-workout carb-y snacks: granola bar; piece of fruit; greek yogurt; rice cakes; crackers
The other thing you should eat is protein. While you need more carbs, a little bit of protein before your workout is a good idea (especially if you're weight training). As you likely know, when one does strength training exercises, small tears are created in the muscle fibers. Then when you rest, your body repairs them, which builds your muscles up bigger and stronger than before. And to do all that protein is needed. This doesn't mean go eat a pound of bacon before a workout or even a burger though! You need protein that's easily digestible and not too much of it, otherwise you'll have stomach issues later on. Some examples of good protein: nuts; greek yogurt; turkey slice; hardboiled egg
And here are some snack and meal ideas in general to add to your pre-workout routine:
Whole Wheat Toast w/Sliced Banana
Apple or Pear w/Nut Butter
Blueberry Banana Protein Smoothie
Chicken/Salmon, Rice & Veggies
¾ cup of Greek Yogurt with 1 tbs Granola and ½ cup of Berries
Coffee Almond Protein Smoothie
Oatmeal & Fresh Fruit
Avocado Toast w/Hardboiled Egg
Peanut Butter Toast
Hummus & Carrots
Vanilla Protein Smoothie
The key to a good pre-workout snack or meal is to have a mixed bag of carbs & a bit of protein so that the release of energy during your workout is slow and steady. Take these snack/meal ideas, go forth and enjoy your newfound workout energy! And remember Top Chef Meals has you covered for all your non-workout related meals and snacks as well!