Saturday, October 10, 2009

What to Eat Before Working Out

Several of you have asked this question and for good reason! The last thing you want is hunger or stomach cramps mid-way through your warm-up. On top of that, food is fuel. Particularly if you're about to workout intensely (ie, boot camp) you want the best kind of fuel to stoke your workout.

First important point: Most of the energy used while you exercise doesn't come from what you just ate -- it comes from carbohydrates (glucose) already stored in your body, which is plenty for a 1 - 2 hour workout. Thus, an overall healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables and complex carbs is key.

Your body and appetite is your best guide as far as what, if and how much to eat before working out. I, for one, prefer not to exercise on an empty stomach. If you workout in the morning and are generally a "wake up and eat breakfast" type person, you'll probably want to nibble on something. Since you've just been fasting (sleeping), you'll fare best from a snack or small meal. If you workout later in the day, use your best judgment.

Best pre-workout food is something small to moderate in size and that is easily or quickly digestable. Here are some great choices:

30 - 60 Minutes Pre-Workout:
Fresh fruit, any variety
Pure fruit juice or smoothie
Healthy homemade or store-bought protein bar

1 - 2 hours Pre-Workout (optimal for most people!):
Yogurt and fresh fruit
Whole grain cereal (w/at least 3 grams of fiber)
Hummus and fresh cut veggies
Whole grain toast or English muffin w/nut butter or turkey slices
Healthy homemade or store-bought protein bar.

A few added pointers:

Do not starve yourself! If you're hungry before working out you will harm yourself.

Drink plenty of water throughout each day.

Consume a balanced meal or snack every 3 - 5 hours throughout each day.

Keep healthy snacks in your car for times you're running late or stuck in traffic before workouts.

Choose foods you enjoy! Listen to your body and work with it, not against it. If you're working out you want your body to be properly fueled and ready to go!

Questions about your pre-workout snack? Post it as a comment and I'll respond. Have a happy, healthy weekend!

Image courtesy of Team Sugar.

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