What should I eat and drink before a workout?
This is perhaps one of the most frequent questions I get especially when someone is new to exercise.
There are a lot of factors to consider:
When was your last meal?
How long will you be working out?
What kind of exercise are you doing?
Are you running or cycling a long distance? Or maybe you are doing an hour or more of heavy weight training?
Water is a great hydration choice for most people 16-20 oz an hour before you workout is sufficient and sipping throughout your workout as needed is a great idea. You probably do not need to invest in Gatorade and drinks like that unless you are working out at a high intensity for more than an hour or you are losing a lot of fluid. If you do buy drinks like that, be aware of the artificial colors and sweeteners a lot of these companies use.
Most of the fuel that your body uses during exercise actually does not come from the food you have recently eaten but rather your carbohydrate/glycogen stores that your body is storing in muscle, liver and fat cells of your body. That is typically enough to allow your body to push hard for 1-2 hours. The good news is that if you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of all of your vital nutrients then you should have some carbohydrate stores to work with.
So if you are the type of person that eating before a workout upsets your stomach, you don’t have to stress about it because if your diet is balanced and rich in carbohydrate sources you will most likely have enough in storage to get you through.
Some people do have a hard time exercising without eating first, especially if it’s been a long time since their last meal or snack. Those people often are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar levels, which fall during the first 15-20 minutes of workout. That drop in blood sugar can cause tiredness, mild dizziness, or even faintness. I fall into this category, I definitely like to have something in my stomach at least an hour before I do my work out.
Some of my go to pre workout foods are:
- Apples, bananas , pears ,oranges, grapes, mango, pineapple. Fruits are naturally high in quick digesting carbohydrates so they don’t sit in your stomach for too long, they provide an efficient sugar carbohydrate boost, and they are hydrating.
- Dates are a great choice as well, very rich in natural sugars. Sometimes I make a nice blend of bananas and dates with a little water. It’s a fantastic easy mix!
- All natural nut butter on a piece of whole grain or sprouted grain bread, rice cake or something like that, a scoop of protein powder blended with fruit
- There are many energy and protein bars out there. Some contain mostly protein, whereas others are composed largely of carbohydrates. In order to boost your energy before a workout, choose a bar that has some good quality protein like 15 grams or more and does not contain artificial ingredients and colors. Although bars may be a little more difficult to digest than fruits, they have the added advantage of being packed with a balance of essential nutrients. A few good ones to go with are “think thin” , “nogii” “simple truth protein bar” (Krogers brand), “vega bar” “cliff bar”
- Raw unsalted nuts with a fruit is a great combo
- Greek yogurt with raw nuts and berries
- Things like lentils,oatmeal,natural cereals are great as well leading up to a workout that is a few hours away. Protein and carbohydrate powerhouses!
If I am doing an intense lifting session or I know I’m working out for more than an hour sometimes I will grab a pre workout mix. There are only 2 on the market that I will buy. Vega pre workout energizer and natural force all natural pre workout. They are both free of artificial colors and flavors and they do not contain any artificial substances.
I do like to make sure I also have some kind of protein in my system if I am lifting to start the repair process of my muscles that I am breaking down while I am lifting weights. I just make sure I have something in my system a few hours before.
So in summary, it really is an individual decision of how your body reacts to certain food combinations. Keep it simple and do some trial and error to find out what works best for you. Now get busy working out that body!!