Here’s the scenario: It’s 5 pm, you’ve finished work and you’re headed straight to your workout session. You keep your gym bag in the car, knowing full well that if you stop by the house, that workout might not happen. Great move. After some traffic, you get to the gym and have a so-so workout… you’re bummed. You feel exhausted and can’t seem to push as hard as you’d like. And then, when you finally get home, you’re, well, famished. And when you stop to think about it, you realize that you haven’t eaten since early afternoon (or in many cases…lunch). Bad move. Based on true stories.
The moral of the story is while there is no one-size-fits-all pre-workout snack, you definitely want to plan for one, especially if your last meal was 3 hours or more before your session. Here’s a brief overview of pre-workout fueling:
Why eat before a workout?
To prevent hunger, to provide the body with energy and to boost stamina.
Do I need to drink before a workout?
Yes. You should aim to drink about 500 ml of water, 2 hours before the start of your workout (this gives you enough time to eliminate any excess).
How much time to allow between your meal and your workout
As a general rule of thumb, you want to allow:
3-4 hours for large meals
2-3 hours for small meals
1h30-2 hours for liquid meals
Today’s focus is going to be on foods eaten one hour or less, before your workout.
What to avoid:
- Unfamiliar foods, that may cause unwanted GI issues
- Fatty foods, that slow stomach emptying
- High fiber foods
- Refined carbohydrates or sugary foods, that may cause a drop in blood sugar during your workout and hinder performance
What to choose:
- Snack made of mostly carbohydrates with a bit of protein: Carbs are the muscle’s primary energy source which is why they should make the base of your pre-workout snack. But having some protein with your snack can be beneficial, as it will give you more sustained energy and also has the advantage of supplying the body with an early boost of amino acids he’ll need to begin repairing and rebuilding upon the end of your training.
- For a high intensity workout, if you have less than 30 minutes before your session or if you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to stick to a snack made almost entirely of easy-to-digest carbs, like a banana.
You need to learn what works for you. Had a good or bad training day? Take note of what you ate and you may eventually notice which foods work, or don’t work for you. Here are some good places to start:
Banana + peanut butter
Oatmeal + sliced almonds
Sprouted grain English muffin or toast + almond butter
Whole-grain crackers + hard boiled egg
Fruit and nut bar or granola bar
Fruit salad + chia seeds
Dried apricots + almonds
Wrap: Tortilla + hummus + cucumber & tomato
Piece of fruit + Greek yogurt
Small quinoa salad
Small baked sweet-potato topped with greek yogurt
Date & almond smoothie: 1/2 banana + 2 dates+ almond milk +2 tsp. almond butter
Or these Peanut butter & Banana energy Bars
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all pre-workout fuel. So dedicate yourself to finding your formula. Then just stick to it get the most out of your training!
What’s your pre-training formula? Any tried-and-true favorites to share?