What you eat before a workout is just as important as what you eat to recover after. Eating the wrong food could cause gas, cramping, and bloating, and impact your performance. Optimizing your pre-workout meal will help avoid these issues and set you up for success.
Some things to keep in mind
- Limit fat. While fat is an important and essential part of daily nutrition, it is best to avoid eating much directly before a workout. Although it may sound obvious to avoid greasy fast food, even healthy sources such as avocado, peanut butter, and olives are best avoided. This is because fat is digested very slowly, increasing the effort needed for the gut to break it down. This requires more blood to be in the gut rather than in the extremities and can result in unnecessary cramping and fatigue. Keep fat to 1 tablespoon or less.
- Choose whole food sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our body, so ensuring we have adequate amounts available is essential. Whole food sources such as bananas, oats, baked potato, or rice are great options.
- Don’t overdo the fiber. Like fat, overeating fiber can cause gastrointestinal distress and possibly even a few extra trips to the restroom. This is especially so for those who do not typically eat a lot of high fiber foods (fruits, raw vegetables, beans, etc). If you have limited options, blending fiberous food into a smoothie or cooking vegetables rather than eating them raw will break the food down, making it more easy to digest.
- Always include protein. Combining carbohydrates and protein is ideal for keeping a sustained amount of energy and building muscle mass. Choose low fat cuts of meat such as white fish, baked or grilled chicken breast, or turkey. About 15-20 grams (4-5 ounces) will do the trick, so no need to down 8+ ounces of protein. You could also opt for a high-quality protein powder, but whole food sources are always best.
optimal pre-workout snack options
These mostly-carbohydrate options are best consumed about an hour prior to exercise.
- banana or apple with 1 Tbs peanut or almond butter
- real-food based protein bar (Larabar or RX Bars are great options)
- cottage cheese with berries
- smoothie (see below for a recipe)
Now as for a pre-workout meal, this should be consumed 3-4 hours prior to the workout, and should be composed of all 3 macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat). Here are some prime examples:
- grilled chicken + quinoa + roasted vegetables
- wild caught fish + rice + steamed broccoli
- roasted turkey + sweet potato + salad
*NOTE: Never experiment directly prior to game time. That is not the time to try a crazy new recipe or a different food — no one wants disaster pants during a race or in the middle of a game.
PB Banana Smoothie Recipe
- 1 cup milk of choice (I prefer oat, coconut or unsweetened milk since its easier on the gut + I’m lactose intolerant)
- 1/2 Tbs peanut or almond butter
- 1 small frozen banana
- 1 Tsp cinnamon
- 1-1.5 scoops Vital Protein Collagen Peptides or SunWarrior Protein (good quality brands I like)
- 1 Tsp cocoa powder (if you like it chocolaty!)
What questions do you have about pre-workout fuel? Let me know below!