Making sure that you fill your body with the right nutrients before you work out can help to ensure that your body is working efficiently and you are getting the most out of your training session.
But what you eat beforehand depends on what your fitness goals are and what type of workout your plan to do.
- Do you want to build muscle, lose weight, or just maintain your fitness?
- Are you planning on doing a run or some sort of intense cardio or a strength-based weights session, or a combination of both?
- Are you planning on training in the morning or afternoon/evening?
This is where it can all become too confusing!!!
To simplify things, this blog will give you some basic ideas depending on the type of workout you are doing.
If you are planning an easy run or cardio session, then some form of complex carbohydrates is best as these are the body’s main source of energy and not stored throughout the body like fats, but are used to power our muscles (remember our previous blog on Macros). So, a small snack 30-90 minutes beforehand is a good idea, such as:
- A banana
- A few rice cakes with peanut butter
- A piece of toast with a smear of peanut butter and half a banana, sliced
But if you are planning on a longer, intense running or cardio session, then a more substantial carbohydrate meal may be required to give you enough energy to get through the session. You might need to snack on things like:
- a small bowl of oatmeal with low fat milk or almond milk and some fruit
- a small bowl of quinoa or brown rice, or
- two pieces of toast with avocado and tomato or cottage cheese
Strength-based weight training
If you are planning on a strength session which might incorporate a combination of cardio as well, then the ideal snack beforehand is a mix of carbohydrates and protein such as:
- a banana smoothie with almond or full cream milk and a dash of cinnamon
- an apple with a small handful of almonds, or quartered with peanut butter on each slice
- a small bowl of oatmeal with Greek yoghurt and blueberries
- two rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices
- A piece of toast with an egg
This is because protein provides energy and helps to build and repair muscle tissue, but it takes longer for the body to break down so it can’t supply energy at the same rate as carbohydrates. Hence, you need a good combination of both if you are stressing your muscles with weights, but also need energy to get through the workout.
But, everyone is different and this is just a rough guide. Sometimes it is about tweaking your eating habits to find what’s right for you to help you achieve your goals. You will work out pretty quickly what works for you and what doesn’t.
Some people can eat right up to their workout whilst others need a good 2 hour gap between eating and working out otherwise they feel sick! Some people prefer a small snack and then have a more substantial meal afterwards, whereas others need a larger meal beforehand to give them enough energy to get through it.
It might simply come down to trial and error to help you work out how much time you need between your nutrients and your workout and how much food your stomach can tolerate.
But, in general, remember, it is important to eat something that’s high in carbs, moderate in protein and low in fat, sugar and fibre 2 to 4 hours before a workout. And obviously avoid highly processed, fried or greasy foods. This is because eating too much protein, fat or processed foods close to the start of a workout can lead to cramps or be too heavy in your stomach because these foods take longer to digest. Carbohydrates are easier to digest and provide a readily available, easily burned energy source to fuel your workout. And don’t forget to drink lots of water before, during and after your workout!