Fueling Your Workout
After the alarm goes off for your morning workout, what do you eat? Whether you are a swimmer hopping into an ice-cold pool, a runner lacing up their shoes for a hilly run, or you’re heading out to your garage gym for a full body workout — everyone should consume a meal/snack prior to a workout to get the most out of it.
Your daily workouts are obviously important for improving your endurance or strength but they can also be a great opportunity to fine tune your pre-workout meal/snack to find what works best for you. When I work with athletes, I call these tried-and-true meals. These meals or snacks will allow you to focus on performance without worrying about possible upset stomach and limited performance.
Initially, you need to consider how much time you have from your meal consumption to exercise. Your selection should also consider where you are coming from right before your workout. Did you just finish a business meeting or college class? Are you literally rolling out of bed into your workout shoes? Consuming a full meal might not be possible in some situations, but the chart below will provide examples of ideal food items in relation to the general time frame you have:
|Time Until Workout
|Size of Meal
|Food Option Examples (Choose 1)
|3 to 4 hours
|- Egg Sandwich on Bagel with Side Fruit Salad
- Chicken and Rice with Vegetables
- Pasta with Tofu Meatballs and Side Salad
|2 to 3 hours
|- Oatmeal with Fruit
- Bagel with Peanut Butter
- Deli Sandwich
|1 to 2 hours
|Small Meal or Large Snack
|- Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
- Yogurt with Granola
- Protein Bar with Banana
|Less than 1 hour
|Small Snack or Liquid Calories
|- Energy Bar
- Sports Drink
- Energy Gel with Water
Now that you have a general time outline for your pre-workout snack/meal here are 2 elements that you should try to AVOID with your tried-and-true meal:
1.) High Fat Meals:
Most fat sources typically digest slower. Many athletes will describe a cement block feeling in their stomach if they consume a high fat meal before exercising. This is because your blood is going to your working muscles instead of aiding digestion while you exercise. This does not mean all fat needs to be avoided, but it should be limited. For example, 1-2 TBSP of peanut butter is fine, just don’t go overboard.
2.) High Fiber Meals:
Fiber’s major role is to keep our bowels regular, which is the last thing you need during a workout. Fiber is not digestible and prior to a workout it is not ideal because it does not provide energy (calories). Right before your workout is not a great time to consume a high fiber cereal (greater than 5 grams of fiber per serving).
As you build out your pre-workout nutrition plan, having 2-3 options provides you the flexibility to meet your workout needs, no matter how chaotic your schedule may be. Your tried-and-true meals will allow you to push your limits and get the most out of each training session!