Eating before exercise is such an individual thing and there’s no hard and fast rules around it. If you’re anything like me, a belly full of food before a run is not going to be pretty! Yet, some people need a little fuel before they can even think about strapping on their joggers. I’ve put together some tips so you can make the best choice for YOU and your training.
Also read: Top 10 Snacks to Have in Your Desk Drawer
Avoid A Large Meal Pre-Workout
Avoid eating a large meal in the two hour window before a strenuous training session. After a meal blood flow is directed to the gut to manage digestion and delivery of nutrients, and away from the muscles involved in exercise. Exercising on a full stomach, or even a half-full stomach, will more than likely give you a stitch, you will not feel at your best and will find the session less rewarding.
Haven’t Eaten For a While?
Then a small snack an hour before working out is a good idea. Less than an hour before a session? Stick to a small glass of diluted fruit juice, a handful of dried fruit or a piece of fresh fruit as a pick-me-up.
Also read: Why is Dairy So Good for You?
What Makes a Good Pre-Workout Snack?
Good snacks or meals before exercise usually contain low-GI carbohydrates for slow release energy, and not too much fat or fibre as both of these nutrients will slow down stomach emptying. A large protein load will also slow down stomach emptying so avoid protein shakes and bars immediately before exercise.
Pre-Exercise Meal and Snack Ideas
- An apple with a little peanut butter on top
- Bowl of berries with a dollop of yoghurt
- A banana on sourdough toast
- A small bowl of bircher muesli
- A corn thin or rice cake with a little ricotta and honey
- A simple piece of fresh fruit
- Four pieces of dried fruit
- A crumpet with some jam
Each of these variations contain a source of carbohydrate – energy for your workout. What feels like great fuel for one person will feel horrible to another. So try a few options and see what works best for you.
Planning a Big Workout Session?
If you are about to do something strenuous (eg. run a half marathon) – it’s important to realise that some foods are more appropriate than others. Trust me! You do not want to consume a high fibre breakfast that will sit heavily in your gut while you are running and potentially lead to a poo stop!
Occasionally you will need to opt for a lower fibre option if you are doing a high cardio workout – a crumpet or (gasp!) white toast with jam or honey – simply because that will digest in the upper GI and feel far more comfortable than a heavy high fibre meal. Again, this is something to trial and depends on the type of training you are doing. It’s less of an issue with strength training.
Over the course of a week or two, try different snacks before training and monitor how you feel. It’s only when you mix things up and test NEW foods, that you can really determine what feels best for YOU.