If you love to workout or even if you’re just getting started, there’s two things you probably already now:
- you need to keep your body fueled with plenty of food packed with nutrients
- the food you eat before a workout should contain enough calories to get you through your routine
But that’s obviously oversimplifying things, so why don’t we get into the actual types of foods you should before a workout.
Carbs, Protein or Fat?
When you’re planning what to eat before a workout, your first priority should be finding something that will give you plenty of fuel to get you through a tough workout. And the best source for that instant energy you’ll need comes from foods that are high in carbohydrates.
But there’s more to it than just the fact that carbs give your body energy. They also digest much more quickly than protein or fat, meaning you won’t have the awful “too full” feeling while you’re trying to lift weights or kill it on the elliptical.
To avoid any potential stomach issues while you’re working out, look for something with around a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein, as well as a small amount of healthy fats (like flax seed, for example).
For quick, easily-digested carbs, you’ll want to go with fruits like watermelon, banana, or pineapple. Sports drinks, energy bars and pretzels are also good options that will give you the energy you need without making you feel too full.
But What Types of Carbohydrates?
To best fuel your workout, look for complex carbohydrates, not ones that are processed or refined. Complex carbs can be found in foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These are excellent pre-workout foods because they’re high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients.
But What About Water?
That’s important too! Your body absolutely must be properly hydrated before, after, and during your workout. If you let yourself get dehydrated, you’ll suffer from exercise-killing problems like headache, cramping, and just a general lack of energy.
You should be drinking water throughout the day, but be especially sure to drink a tall glass of water or a sports drink about an hour before you workout. As you go through your routine, continue to sip on your water bottle or make frequent trips to the fountain as often as needed.
Anything Else I Need?
Probably the most commonly overlooked part of pre-workout nutrition is the loss of important electrolytes like sodium. When you sweat while exercising, you’re rapidly losing salt. To keep your levels normal, sip on a sports drink or add a little salt to your pre-workout drink.
And How Many Calories?
Now that you know what you should be eating and drinking, you just need to get a handle on the amount.
Eating too much before you workout can make you feel full and tired. On the flip side of that, not eating enough will leave you feeling drained and will sap you of the energy you need to complete your routine.
An ideal amount of calories to take in before working out is roughly 200 calories for women and 300 for men. You’ll probably have to adjust this a bit based on your weight and the intensity of your workout, but this is a good, rough starting point.
Now that you know what you should be eating before a workout, the only step left is to get out there and actually do it! Have a good one, and make sure to pin this in case you need a reminder in the future!