What you eat before a workout can make or break a session. Eat too much of the wrong foods, and you might feel overly full and sluggish. But if you eat too little -- or skip a meal entirely -- you could feel lightheaded and hit a wall before you're finished. With the right foods consumed at the right time, you can make your workout as effective as possible.
Time your meal or snack correctly. Registered dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth says you generally want to eat about an hour before you hit the gym.
Consume the appropriate amount of food. You don't want to eat so much that it cancels out the number of calories you'll burn at your workout. Largeman-Roth recommends eating about 200 calories worth of food.
Eat a high-carb, moderate-protein, low-fat meal or snack, says registered dietitian Suzette Kroll. Carbohydrates will give you energy, while protein helps muscle building and repair. Avoid high-fat foods, as they don't digest well. Options include low-fat plain yogurt with muesli and a small amount of honey; a cup of low-fat cottage cheese with cantaloupe and granola; or a frozen waffle with almond or peanut butter and half a pear.
Blend up a smoothie if you need a snack on the go, suggests registered dietitian Kati Mora. Combine sliced fruit, Greek yogurt and granola for a thick shake. If you have to resort to a commercial shake, pick one with 10 to 20 grams of whey- or milk-based protein.
Grab a banana if all else fails and you're out of time, says Largeman-Roth. This is preferable to skipping your snack or meal entirely. Resist the urge to snack on protein or sports bars, which Kroll calls "glorified candy bars."
Tips & Warnings
- It's a myth that forgoing food before a workout will help you burn more fat during your session, according to trainer Jillian Michaels. Your body needs energy to perform at a high intensity, and your workout will suffer if it doesn't have fuel.