Pre-Workout Foods: What Should I Eat Before I Hit the Gym?

Pre-Workout Foods: What Should I Eat Before I Hit the Gym?

It’s really tempting to skip the calories, but the food you eat before you exercise fuels your workout and maximizes your efforts and results. If you eat correctly you’ll be able to work out harder! Eating before a workout also prevents low blood sugar, which can cause lightheadedness and fatigue while you’re active. That being said, resist the urge for the triple mocha latte, or a piece of cold pizza before you head to the gym!

There are some great choices to get you off on the right foot nutritionally and you can sneak them in an hour before you start your class or gym workout.

Bananas are a great pre-class choice, they’re loaded with highly digestible carbohydrates, and packed with potassium, which aids in maintaining muscle and nerve function. The body doesn’t store potassium for very long, so a medium banana before a workout will help keep nutrient levels high. Bananas are especially great for morning exercisers; a medium banana, and a half cup of Greek yogurt eaten 30 minutes before you begin your routine will help to give you the carbohydrates and protein you need to sustain your effort through a tough class.

Oatmeal Oats are full of fiber, which means they slowly release carbohydrates into your bloodstream. This steady release helps to keep energy levels consistent during your workout. Oats also contain B vitamins, which help convert carbohydrates into energy. A half to one cup of oatmeal 30 minutes before you get active will give you sustained energy while you’re working out.

Fruit Smoothies can be high in carbohydrates and high-quality protein. They’re easy to eat, and quickly digested. A blend of 1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup fruit, and 3/4 cup fruit juice is a simple recipe for a quick pre-class energy booster. We tend to steer away from fruit and other foods that are high in carbs. That can be a mistake, because protein doesn’t break down fast enough to become fuel for a workout. The carbs from fruit break down quickly and the protein is used later to prevent muscle breakdown.

Whole Wheat Bread Yep, I said it…bread! In our carb-fearing, gluten-free world (only about 1% of the population actually suffers from true gluten-related allergies and sensitivities) —a good quality, 100% whole wheat piece of bread, with a tablespoon of almond butter, peanut butter, or even a hard-boiled egg, or a couple slices of turkey will give you that carb energy, with a protein back-up 45 minutes to an hour before you hit the gym.

What NOT to eat? Avoid high fat foods before working out—fat leaves the stomach very slowly, which means you’ll feel full and sluggish and could cramp up easily. Although carbohydrates are good, you should not get them from sugar or candy. These sugars can cause  a sugar rush and probably a crash mid-workout. Try not to overindulge before class, as eating too much can cause indigestion, sluggishness, nausea, and vomiting. Remember, the suggestions above are snacks, not meals. Food is fuel, we want make sure we’re giving ourselves the best nutritional support while we get fit!


Annie Farley of Elite Sports Clubs

Written by Annie Farley, MS, CPT; Spinning Certified Star 3 Instructor & Group Exercise Instructor at Elite Sports Club-Mequon

Annie Farley has been the Director of Group Exercise, and a personal trainer at the Elite Sports Clubs location in Mequon since 2010. As a two sport collegiate athlete, she developed a passion for strength and conditioning, coaching, wellness, and exercise physiology. Sharing the knowledge of exercise science, and the enjoyment of being active has been the focus of her tenure at Elite. Indoor cycling, boot camp, and strength training exercise classes are among her specialties. When she’s not teaching an exercise class, or training a client, Annie can be found on the tennis court, at the riding stable, or spending time with her husband and 4 kids.

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