When it comes to exercise, we often forget that setting ourselves up for success requires more than just what we do in the gym. How we treat out bodies before and after the gym plays a big part in our health. One easy way to ensure we get the most out of our workouts is to properly fuel our bodies beforehand.
Pre-workout nutrition is a balance between eating enough to prevent low blood sugar, weakness, and strength, but not eating too much to where we feel sluggish too full. A good rule of thumb is to eat larger meals 3-4 hours before a workout or a smaller meal/snack 1-2 hours before exercise. During a workout the body pulls energy from carbohydrate storage. Therefore, the best things to eat before a workout should be primarily made of complex carbohydrates (whole grains), with moderate levels of protein and fat to maintain long-term energy.
Some examples of good pre-workout meals to eat 3-4 hours before a workout include:
- Turkey sandwich on whole wheat with fruit
- Whole wheat pasta with ground turkey and vegetables
- Grilled chicken breasts, steamed vegetables, and a sweet potato
Some examples of snacks that can be eaten 1-2 hours before a workout include:
- Low fat cheese and crackers
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Nuts, fruit, and cheese
Another way we can maintain energy levels before a workout is to fuel our bodies throughout the day with healthy snacks. This will keep our blood sugar level stable and prevent overeating at meals. Pick foods that are satisfying and nutrient dense, providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. Keeping these snacks handy throughout the day make it easier to make good food choices and have appropriate fuel for exercise.
Good snack options:
Nuts- high in protein and healthy fat
Bananas – high in potassium and fiber
Avocados – high in healthy fats, fiber, and Vitamins A, E, B, and K
Cheese and Yogurt – good source of calcium
Avoiding sugary and fatty foods keep us from feeling sluggish from a drastic drop in blood sugar during our workouts. This spike and drop is caused by foods that have sugar that is quickly absorbed and then dropped out of the blood stream. These foods are “high” on the Glycemic (or blood sugar) Index. A quick way to tell which foods are high on the Glycemic Index is to think about how quickly those foods dissolve in your mouth. For example, cotton candy is made of just sugar so it dissolves in your mouth instantaneously. On the other hand, more complex foods such as nuts don’t dissolve in your mouth (or it would take a really long time!). This rate of absorption in your mouth mimics the rate of absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream.
Finally, if we drink water consistently throughout the day we can hydrate our bodies ahead of our workouts. Dehydration reduces performance! Once we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. So stay ahead of the issue with continual hydration before and during a workout. These tips of proper pre-workout habits will ensure our bodies are fueled for optimal performance.