The Best (and Worst) Foods to Eat Before a Workout

The importance of good nutrition pre and post workout is just as important as the workout itself.

Some foods aren’t ideal to eat too close to a workout because if they take a while to digest, they can sit in the stomach and make you feel pretty unwell. If you’ve ever felt nausea, stomach aches and cramps mid-sweat session then you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

On the other hand, choosing the right foods before a workout can lead to you feeling full of energy and ready to smash it, getting you the results you’re after, faster. Here, we list the best and worst foods to eat before a workout to have you performing at your best. 

The worst foods to eat before a workout

Two key factors that influence whether a certain food or meal will be best to avoid pre-workout is the fibre and the fat content. Exercise requires blood to be directed to the working muscles, leading to reduced blood flow to the digestive system. This means that during a workout, your digestive system is not as capable at doing its job compared to the parts of the day when you’re not exercising.

High fat foods, regardless if those are healthy fats or saturated and trans fats, are high in energy (calories), so naturally take longer to digest. A longer time to digest means an increased risk of the food sitting in your stomach, leading to you feeling nauseous mid-burpee.

While fibre is a healthy part of our diet (and, in particular, supports good gut health) eating fibre too close to a workout also increases the risk of gastrointestinal issues.

Avoid these foods immediately before you workout:

  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
  • Legumes including beans, chickpeas and lentils – these are high fibre foods that are a healthy food for daily eating but best avoided immediately before a workout
  • High fat foods such as pizza, chips and deep-fried foods – these increase the risk of nausea during a workout
  • Carbonated beverages including soft drinks – the carbonation can lead to feelings of bloating and fullness during your workout
  • Alcohol (obviously) - alcohol doesn’t provide beneficial nutrients to assist your performance, and is likely to hinder progress and increase injury risk
  • If you are prone to reflux or heartburn, avoid trigger foods such as spicy foods and acidic foods immediately before an intense workout

The best foods to eat before a workout

Now you know what we recommend avoiding before a workout, there are plenty of options to choose from to help fuel you up for a great workout session. Carbohydrates are the key energy source used during most exercise types, and is ideal to consume before a workout to ensure you are well-fuelled. While large portions of healthy fats aren’t necessary at this time, a moderate amount of protein can be consumed. Just don’t go overboard.

2-4 hours before your workout, plan to have a larger meal as this will give you enough time to digest properly. Then, about 1-2 hours prior to your workout, opt for a light and small snack.

Some perfect pre-workout food options include:

2-4 hours before a workout (larger meal)

  • Poke bowl
  • Burrito bowl
  • Chicken and salad sandwich, wrap or roll
  • Eggs on toast
  • Porridge or overnight oats
  • Sushi and edamame
  • Toasted cheese and tomato sandwich
  • Vegetable soup with toast

1-2 hours before a workout (smaller snack)

  • Cereal with yoghurt and fruit
  • Fruit salad
  • Rice cakes topped with peanut butter or ricotta
  • Homemade fruit and yoghurt smoothie

Looking for more food to fuel you? These are the top 8 vegetable sources of protein, according to a dietitian. 

 

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