Should you eat a workout meal? It depends on what you intend to eat. Certain foods are best avoided, such as those high in sugar, as you will run out of energy quickly. You should also avoid spicy and heavy foods directly before a workout, as these may cause indigestion while you’re exercising.
If you have followed a balanced diet throughout the day, you may not need to eat much at all. If you plan to exercise an hour after lunch, for example, you may have enough energy for your workout, provided you have eaten nutrient-rich foods.
However, if you plan to work out more than two hours after eating a healthy meal, you may need to eat something else before you work out. This can give you the energy boost you need for your workout, and it will also provide you with more mental focus. Certain foods can also help you build muscle and support muscle recovery, which you should include in your diet.
What should you eat before a workout?
To get the most out of your workout, focus on your ‘macro’ intake, i.e., those foods high in macronutrients, such as those containing carbohydrates and protein.
Your body uses carbohydrates for energy, so you should focus on foods that contain these when considering your pre-workout diet.
Foods that contain carbohydrates include:
- Whole grain cereals
- Whole grain bread
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grain pasta
Without a diet of carbohydrates, it is much harder to work out, primarily if you focus on high-intensity exercises, as you will run out of energy quickly.
Protein-rich foods can also support your training, as amino acids are necessary for muscle synthesis. They can also prevent muscle damage and promote recovery.
Protein foods include:
- Lean meats, such as beef and pork
- Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- Fish and seafood
- Dairy products (if your body can handle them before a workout)
A combination of carbohydrates and protein in your pre-workout meal will give you more energy, improve muscle growth, and support your muscle recovery. If you don’t have time to prepare something, you could also consider pre-workout supplements as an alternative. You can find these in carbohydrate and protein form, so check out the previous link and consider other options at your local fitness store.
When should you eat a pre-workout meal?
It depends on what you plan to eat. If you are eating a balanced diet as part of your main meal, you may not need to eat much at all before your workout. Provided you have had your fill of protein and carbs in your meal; you should be ready. However, if these foods were heavy or were full of fiber, wait for an hour or more to give them time to settle in your stomach.
If you need to eat a pre-workout meal, perhaps because lunch was several hours ago, then aim for a light snack or a healthy smoothie. You should allow for at least twenty minutes between eating and working out to reduce the chances of an upset stomach or slow energy intake.
The last word: what you should eat before a workout depends on your diet, training, and fitness goals.
The foods you eat before working out will depend on what you have already eaten during the day and the timing of your workout. But whatever you eat, focus on a balance of proteins and carbs, and avoid those foods that can hinder your workout, such as anything high in sugar. For more advice, check out the related articles on our website.