Think of your body like a car: it needs fuel to run. Filling your tank before exercising gives your body the energy it needs to perform at its best. To maximize performance and improve recovery time, it’s important to eat the right foods and hydrate well before you work out.
What are the right foods to eat before you exercise? Here’s a guide to what you should and shouldn’t eat before working out.
Foods to eat before your workout
Bananas: Bananas are loaded with high-quality complex carbohydrates for energy, and they’re full of potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramps during exercise.
Oats with berries: Steel-cut oats contain fiber and B vitamins, which help the body convert carbs into energy. Berries provide extra carbs and antioxidants, which may aid in recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage.
Apple slices and peanut butter: Not only are apple slices and peanut butter a convenient snack, but they also provide the perfect combination of protein and carbs. Although the protein won’t break down quickly enough to fuel your workout, the carbs will quickly convert to energy. Your body will use the protein later to repair muscles and prevent muscle damage.
Fruit and yogurt: Like apple slices and peanut butter, fruit and yogurt give a one-two punch of high-quality carbs and protein.
Fruit smoothie: If you avoid sugary additives like syrups, a healthy fruit smoothie can help boost your carbohydrate intake before working out. Add protein to your smoothie with Greek yogurt, nut butter or cottage cheese.
Foods to avoid before your workout
Flaxseeds: Although they’re generally considered healthy, flaxseeds contain high amounts of fiber, which can cause gas and bloating. Limit your fiber intake two hours before exercising.
Gel packs: Leave gel packs to the extreme athletes. They are full of sugar that can disrupt your insulin levels and cause a crash.
Hummus: Like flaxseeds, hummus can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating, but not from fiber. Bean-based foods like hummus contain high amounts of indigestible carbohydrates.
Protein bars: They may contain protein, but the truth is, protein bars aren’t much healthier than a candy bar. They are high in calories, which will weigh you down during a workout, and if the bar contains less than 10 grams of protein, you may feel even more sluggish.
Avocados: Fatty foods like avocados should be avoided for two hours before and after exercise, as they can be difficult to digest and cause stomach cramping and discomfort.
It’s ideal to eat a small meal or snack about two hours before your workout, but if you only have a short time before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit, such as an apple or banana. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout to avoid dehydration. After your workout, consume more digestible carbs (such as those listed above, or whole grains) and eat protein to repair and grow your muscles.