What to Eat Before a Workout
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
You wouldn’t start out on a long road trip without a full tank of gas, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect to adequately fuel up their bodies before a workout. If you’re heading into a strenuous workout, you definitely need to fuel up before you go. So here are some things to consider:
- Your body relies on carbohydrates to provide energy, so you need to “top off your tank” with the right carbohydrates before you head out. Fruits and healthy grains are usually tops on the list.
- The amount of time you have to digest before you start exercising makes a difference when you’re choosing what to eat. In general, you should eat foods that are high in carbohydrate, but low in fat and fiber so that they’ll digest relatively quickly.
- If you’ll be exercising within an hour or so of eating, you’ll want really easy-to-digest foods like a protein shake, a carton of yogurt or some instant oatmeal with milk.
- If you’ve got at least a couple of hours before your workout, you’ll have time to digest a full meal, but you’ll still want to keep it low in fat and fiber. A sandwich and a piece of fruit, or a chicken stir-fry with some steamed rice would do the trick.
- Skipping breakfast is common among morning exercisers, but the body needs some extra carbs after an overnight fast. If this sounds like you, start with small amounts of foods that are easily digested, like half a banana, a few bites of a bagel or a protein shake, to see what’s comfortable for you.
- It may take some trial and error to see what works best, but most people find that they train better with a little gas in the tank. Some athletes who work out hard in the morning will get up an hour early, eat something and then go back to bed to allow the food to digest. Others can only handle a few bites of toast and a few bites of a banana before heading out, while others can eat a full meal with no problem. Experiment until you find your sweet spot.