A very common question I get is how to eat before exercising. So much information is out there that contradicts itself and everyone has a hard time determining what is best. When it comes to exercise, it is ESSENTIAL to fuel your body. But why, when and what are typically the next questions.
WHY: Food is the only way to give your body the energy it needs for a workout. Food also helps to prevent hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, during activity. Eating something prior to working out will feed your muscles to allow for optimum performance and ease your stomach so you aren’t uncomfortable during exercise.
WHEN: If you haven’t eaten a meal within the past 2-3 hours you should eat a snack at least one hour before activity. You do not want to try new foods before a workout as they may not digest well and could cause upset.
WHAT: The best food choices before a workout are carbohydrate sources. This is because carbohydrates are our first source of energy. Items such as, a bagel, granola bar, fruit, crackers or oatmeal are great options.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Things change a little if you are exercising for 60 minutes or longer. Your body needs different foods to fuel endurance and longer-term energy to muscles. A good pre-workout snack for endurance athletes combines protein and carbohydrates. Choices like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese with fruit and an apple and peanut butter can be good sources. It is also important to remember that you may need to eat carbohydrates or drink a sports drink to provide energy (in the form of carbohydrates) throughout longer term exercise.
This information should help provide better fuel for workouts, so that you can work at your highest performance level. Leave a comment with your favorite pre-workout snack!
Katherine Horner, RD, LD, NASM-CPT, CES
Surgical Weight Loss Dietitian & Exercise Specialist