Exercise is a crucial aspect of fit living, and so is proper nutrition. It makes sense, then, that exercise and nutrition directly affect each other. What you eat before and after you exercise affects how your workout will pan out and how many benefits you’ll gain from it. But you can’t just choose any type of healthy food and expect it to help your efforts. Certain foods are better than others before a workout when you’re fueling your body to perform, and some are better for replenishing what your body has lost after a grueling gym session. To make sure you get it right before you break a sweat, here’s a primer on what to eat as a pre-gym snack.
What your body needs
Suzette Kroll, a registered dietician at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona, told Weight Watchers that your body needs a meal or snack that’s high in carbohydrates, has a moderate amount of protein and is low in fat. Carbohydrates provide energy, and the complex carbs you’d find in whole grains are better than the simple ones in foods like potato chips. Complex carbs offer a long-term boost of energy, while simple carbs just give you a short burst, which isn’t enough to keep you moving during a lengthy workout. Protein, on the other hand, is important for muscle building and repair. A low-fat meal or snack is better for you before a workout because it’s easier to digest than high-fat foods.
When to eat
Wolfing down a snack on your way to the gym won't cut it, as you'll probably feel sluggish during your exercise routine or experience painful cramps. Instead, aim to eat your pre-workout meal or snack at least 45 minutes before you exercise. You'll need more time to digest if you have a bigger meal, which you might want if you're exercising for a long period of time, such as before a 10k. If you're just planning a short workout, keep your snack small.
Now that you know what your body needs before exercise, it's time to figure out what kinds of meals and snacks you can put together for the optimal carb/protein/fat ratio. Here are some ideas for meal preparation that'll keep you energized during any workout.
- Whole-grain bagel with jam: The complex carbs you get from the whole grains will sustain you throughout your routine, while the simple carbs from the jam can provide a boost of energy to get you started on the right track.
- Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, sliced banana and cinnamon: Again, the whole grains will offer lasting energy, and the peanut butter gives you muscle-building protein. Bananas provide potassium, which your body loses when it sweats. Fitness magazine noted that cinnamon has been linked to stabilizing blood sugar and improving brain function, so it's a nice added boost.
- Greek yogurt: Unless you're lactose intolerant, yogurt is easy on your stomach, which is good if you're doing an intense activity that requires a lot of jumping around. It also has plenty of protein and carbohydrates. For an extra boost, add some honey, which offers simple carbs.
- Brown rice with chicken: If you eat lunch or dinner before your workout, keep it simple with this option. It's bland enough to sit well in your stomach but offers lots of protein and complex carbs.