How to Eat Before a Workout

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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.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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."

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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.

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