What should you eat before you workout?
I get this question a lot and while there is no one size fits all answer, I will give some general recommendations to help you discover the best pre-workout nutrition for you.
If you are looking for a personalized plan, it’s always best to see a nutritionist.
But first I want to clear up one common misconception: what you eat right before a workout does NOT fuel your workout or your muscles. There isn’t enough time to turn your pre-workout food into glycogen. Glycogen is your muscles main fuel supply. It takes about 24 hours to refill your glycogen stores so your body must rely on existing glycogen and fat stores to fuel your workout. That means what you consume the previous day matters for your workout. If you are regularly consuming proteins, healthy, natural fats, and good carbohydrates like vegetables and fruit, you will have plenty of glycogen stored for your body to use for fuel.
The purpose of the pre-workout meal or snack is to ward off hunger and to stabilize blood sugar levels NOT to fuel your workout.
Before I cover what to eat, let’s talk about when and how much you should eat first.
When you should eat your pre-workout meal will vary for everyone because everyone tolerates food a little differently before physical activity. Some can eat right before a workout and feel great, while others feel like they would get sick unless they have an empty stomach. Most people tend to feel the best when they eat 15 minutes to an hour and a half before a workout.
How much you need to eat before your workout will depend on what type of activity you are doing. Are you going to be mountain biking or running for a long time? Or are you going to be running sprints for a short time? Or maybe you going on a hike, walk or leisurely bike ride.
You always want optimum performance, so you should eat enough to feel good and have enough energy for your workout, but not so much that you feel sick or bloated. The less time before your workout starts, the less you should consume.
Most people do well with smaller pre-workout meals or snacks. If you are doing lower intensity activity (walking, light bike riding, etc), you probably won’t need a pre-workout meal at all. On the flip side, the longer and harder your workout, the more you will probably want to eat.
The best way to find out what that means for you is to experiment and write down your results. Make sure to write down how much you ate, how much time you ate before your workout, what you ate, and how you felt during your workout.
Choose foods that are easily digestible because you want your energy to go into crushing your workout not digesting food. Most people perform and feel the best with a mix of protein, fat, and a small amount of nutrient dense, low glycemic carbs. Always remember to be properly hydrated before going into a workout. Water and coconut water are great options.
Good pre-workout paleo snack options:
hard boiled eggs
celery sticks with almond or sun butter
handful of coconut flakes
half of an avocado or guacamole
handful of nuts
high quality deli meat
Next week, we will discuss post workout nutrition and I promise, it’s not as vague as pre-workout nutrition!
Do you eat a snack or meal before your workouts? What kinds of foods have given you the best results for your goals?