It’s no secret that nutrition is a key part of a person’s health and closely linked to fitness performance. According to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, fitness is enhanced by well-chosen nutrition strategies, and what you eat before working out can influence athletic performance.
It can be tricky to identify what to eat before working out. Certain foods — even healthy foods — may be difficult to digest quickly, which could lead to poor athletic performance or sickness during your workout.
Here’s what to consider when deciding what to eat before working out.
Fiber is found in healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals. Although these are all great foods to enjoy any time throughout the day, some athletes avoid eating high-fiber foods immediately before a workout.
High-fiber foods are more difficult to digest than other foods, meaning they can make you feel overly full during a workout and use up energy that could otherwise be put toward fueling your workout.
To get your veggies in before your workout, try making an omelet. Not only will you get a dose of protein from the eggs, packing in vegetables like peppers, mushrooms and broccoli will help fuel your workout.
Protein is one of the best nutrients to eat after a workout because it helps build and recover muscles. However, a huge plate of meat, eggs and cheese may not be the best choice for a pre-workout snack.
Similar to fiber, protein can take longer to digest and make you feel sick while you’re running, swimming or lifting weights. At the same time, you don’t want to feel starved or hungry during your workout, so a few slices of deli meat, low-fat string cheese or a hard-boiled egg are good choices. Avoid high-protein foods that may have been cooked in large quantities of oil or are high in fat.
Speaking of fat, everyone knows healthy fats from foods like salmon, eggs, avocados and nuts are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. But consuming a large quantity of these foods right before you exercise can lead to stomach aches and sluggishness.
Although one of my favorite post-run meals is scrambled eggs with peanut butter toast, I’d never eat it before a run because the high amount of healthy fat would make me uncomfortably full and sit in my stomach for miles and miles.
You’ve probably heard of athletes “carb loading” before an event. While the effects of extreme carbohydrate consumption before a high-level fitness event may be debated in the athletic community, most authorities like the American Heart Association and the American Council on Exercise agree that carbohydrates serve as a good pre-workout snack for the average person.
Simple carbs digest quickly and are immediately used by your body as energy. Carbs low in fiber, fat and protein — such as plain bagels, potatoes, white rice and low-fat yogurt — are popular choices for many athletes. For a quick pre-workout snack, try toast with peanut butter.
The most important thing to remember as you design your exercise and nutrition plan is that everyone is different. Try a few different snacks and be aware of how you feel during your workout. A little experimentation will help you find the ratio of healthy fiber, protein, fat and carbs that allows you to perform your best.