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What to Eat Before You Work Out

Proper Nutrition—Before you Exercise

You know those coupons you keep getting in the mail for Bed Bath & Beyond? If you decide to head there for, say, a new duvet cover or a Le Creuset Dutch oven, or maybe even a jumbo bottle of conditioner, you’d probably kick yourself if you forgot to bring along your packet of coupons. You might even head home empty-handed. You want to get the most bang for your buck. Why shortchange yourself?

It’s the same with eating and working out. The smarter you eat before your workout, the better your workout will be.

Here’s how it breaks down.

Wait at least two hours to work out after eating a meal (we’re talking full meal here, like breakfast, lunch or dinner). You will have digested a significant enough portion in time to hit your training routine with energy and a calm belly. Keep in mind that protein takes longer to digest and utilizes more energy to digest, so if you’re eating a protein-heavy meal you may want to wait even longer before exercising.

If you’re working out in an hour to a half-hour, eat a snack. This will give you energy to rock your workout without weighing you down, and without taxing your digestive system at the expense of your cardio and strength-training energy.

Eat a couple hundred calories—something that includes protein and fat, or a little carb, a little protein and, you guessed it, a little fat.

Snack ideas include an apple with a handful of almonds; a banana with a little nut butter; celery with almond butter; a hard-cooked egg; a couple slices of turkey breast and a handful of berries. These snacks and more are from this website, along with nutritional information. If you’re interested in low-glycemic foods, then take a look at this.

Eat real food dammit. I cannot express this enough when it comes to weight loss, disease prevention and overall health. This means whole food. And Clean food. In other words, avoid the heavily processed stuff if you can. A banana with a handful of macadamias will fuel you longer and more efficiently than an energy bar with an ingredient list that reads like a medical disclaimer. If you’re pressed for time and love the convenience of an energy bar, be discerning. Not all energy bars are created equal. With that in mind, here’s what to look for in a foil-wrapped snack.

Pay attention to your hunger. Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Studies have shown that working out in a fasted state can reap tremendous rewards, but only if you adhere to a low-carb lifestyle that doesn’t depend on glucose for energy. Read this to learn more.

Conversely, don’t deny yourself food if you are hungry, especially before a workout. At the very least, grab a handful of nuts, a glass of OJ or a piece of string cheese. Convenience foods can be healthy too.

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