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What to Eat and Drink Before Your Workout

You may think that skipping the pre-workout meal will save calories. Don’t make this mistake. The pre-workout meal might make the difference between a mediocre workout and a great workout.

Make sure you are fueling your body correctly to maximize results. Here are some common questions regarding pre-exercise meals:

What is the ideal meal to eat before exercise?

The pre-workout meal should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. Your muscles rely on carbohydrate foods such as bagels, pasta, potato, oatmeal, or rice for fuel. The protein provides amino acids needed for muscle building a repair. Lower fat foods are recommended because fat takes longer to digest and can cause gastrointestinal upset if consumed in large amounts pre-workout. For this reason fried foods are not recommended. The timing of the meal can be important and it is recommended that a meal be consumed 2-4 hours prior to working out. Make sure you are eating the right amount. Eating too little can cause to low energy or “bonking” during a workout and eating too much may cause gastrointestinal upset.

The meal should be:

  • High in carbohydrates

  • Moderate in protein

  • Low in fat

  • Low to moderate in fiber

  • Include fluids

  • Made up of familiar foods

What should I eat before an early morning workout?

Early morning exercisers may find it difficult to hop out of bed and eat something right away or don’t have much time to eat and get out the door. It might not be feasible to get up earlier to eat a meal. In this case it is recommended to grab a quick snack on the way out the door. The snack should be high in carbohydrate, low in protein, and low in fat with the goal of providing a boost of energy after an overnight fast. Suggestions for a quick snack before an early morning workouts include half a bagel, banana, ½ energy bar, or a piece of toast. Early morning exercisers may consider adding a bedtime snack consisting of carbohydrate and protein to increase energy levels during early morning workouts.

What if my workout is in the evening?

For evening workouts it is important to eat breakfast and lunch. Make sure the lunch meal follows the recommendations for a pre-workout meal. Plan a pre-workout snack about 2-3 hours pre-workout to prevent fatigue and low energy during the workout. Examples of good pre-workout snacks include a string cheese and granola bar, ¼ cup almonds with an apple, or 8 whole grain crackers with hummus.

What about pre-workout fluids?

Consume water throughout the day to maintain good hydration. Within an hour before a workout drink an additional 8-16 ounces of water. There is no need to consume a sports drink prior to a workout. Fluids such as water or sports drinks are recommended during a high intensity workout lasting longer than 60 minutes. Sports drinks are not recommended during exercise lasting less than 60 minutes in duration.

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