We all know that working out and eating healthfully go hand-in-hand, but what foods provide the best fuel and how much?
The simple answer is that it depends - it depends on what kind of training you're doing (running vs. lifting weights for example), for how long, and what kind of foods your body (and stomach) can handle before working out.
Generally speaking, most people are going to want to eat something light about an hour or two before training. This will give the body plenty of time to digest and should help you from feeling overly full and sluggish during your workout. You know that feeling after a Thanksgiving feast? Yeah, we want to avoid that before a good workout.
So what kinds of foods should you be looking for?
The body primarily uses carbohydrates for fuel as it is broken down quickly and efficiently into sugar and energy (calories). Protein and fats will also break down into energy eventually, but it takes much longer. This explains why you may feel more full for a longer period of time eating scrambled eggs or yogurt for breakfast, rather than a bagel with jam.
For this reason, carbs are a great source of fuel prior to working out. Simple carbs like fruits and honey will give a quick burst of energy, while more complex carbs like whole wheat bread and oatmeal will have a more lasting effect. It's a great idea to have a bit of both.
Fats and protein should not be overlooked or avoided, however. This is especially true for people lifting weights or working out for long periods of time. Protein may take a longer period of time to digest and convert into accessible energy, but it is very important in maintaining and growing muscles. In addition, both fats and protein in small amounts pre-workout will help prevent crashing or getting hungry before the workout is over.
So what does this all mean?
Take home point: the ideal mini-meal/snack to eat before working out is one with a moderate amount of carbs and a small amount of protein and/or fat.
Here are some great pre-workout ideas for you to try:
- Scrambled egg on toast
- Greek yogurt with berries and maybe a bit of granola
- Peanut butter, banana & honey on toast
- Oatmeal with berries and nuts
- Sliced apple and peanut butter
- Cheese and pretzel sticks
- Banana and protein shake
- Dried fruit and nuts