It’s all too easy to just decide food is the problem with your diet and stop eating on your workout days. That attitude leads to a lot of physical issues, none of which are beneficial. Food, in fact, is necessary as fuel to make your workout session the best it can be. A snack or a meal before exercise can also prevent low blood sugar, a condition which can prevent you from petering out long before you’re finished working out. So, what are the best foods to have before starting an exercise or training session?
Bananas are packed with power in the form of fast-acting carbohydrates as well as potassium, which is good for keeping your muscles free from the burn of fatigue. Because the body does not store potassium for a long time, it should be a medium-sized banana. This will give you around 400 milligrams of potassium and 29 grams of carbohydrates (which is about the same amount of carbohydrates as two slices of whole-wheat bread).
If you’re working out early in the morning and generally skip breakfast, eat the banana first, then have breakfast within half an hour after your workout so your muscles can build and repair. Be sure to have some protein in that meal!
Oats are a powerful source of fiber and carbohydrates, providing a constant stream of energy during your workout. The steady output of energy will keep you going at the right pace for your entire workout. Oats also have B vitamins, which help turn those carbohydrates into usable energy. Have a cup at least 30 minutes before you start your workout.
A slice of whole grain bread is another place you can find the carbs you need for exercise fuel. Of course, the bread doesn’t have to be eaten all on its own. For a quick workout in the middle of the day, eat a slice of whole bread topped with turkey about 45 minutes beforehand. Or you could try some sliced-up hard boiled eggs, jam, or honey to top the bread. Since it’s a whole grain food (like oats), it gives you a steady flow of energy while you exercise unlike a candy bar. You could also eat a whole wheat bagel or some whole wheat cereal.
A fruit smoothie is a quick and easy snack that gives you the just the right balance of simple and complex carbohydrates, and high-quality protein, if you pick a balanced formula. It’s also easily digestible, which means you’ll have that energy when you need it. The carbs give you energy while you work out, while the protein repairs and builds your muscles afterwards.
As you exercise, the simple carbohydrates will give you a burst of energy early on, then the complex carbohydrates will kick in, powering the end of your workout session. Do your research to find a balanced formula so you don’t just fill your body with fruit sugar!
Caffeine isn’t strictly a food, but if coffee is a regular routine for you it may actually help during your workout. It supplies mental energy, fights off fatigue, and helps burn fat. A couple of shots of espresso in a pre-workout shake or with a nutritious protein bar can give you quite a boost.
Carbonated sodas, which tend to be full of sugar, are more likely to cause gas pains than a surge of energy, so avoid those. And remember, eating something is still important before a workout.
It’s possible to enjoy the simplicity of chickpeas before your workout if you’re able to get them canned. Put a dash of lemon juice on about a quarter cup of chickpeas, and you’ll have 30 grams of carbs, 9 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein to fuel your workout. The fiber and protein will help you feel like you’ve eaten something substantial, keeping the hunger cravings away until your workout is done.
Lean sources of fat and protein about 3 to 6 hours before exercise can help you through longer endurance workout sessions. Along with some good carbohydrate sources, something like salmon can help you through a long run or bike ride.
Salmon is also a good food to eat if your goal is to increase strength. Here is where the protein really comes in handy, since protein is used to build and repair muscle after a workout. Salmon also contains high amounts of vitamin D, which is often difficult to get. A lack of vitamin D can actually cause your muscles to weaken, making food rich in this nutrient important for anyone trying to keep in shape.
Getting the right amount of carbs in your body before your workout can boost the energy that you have when you’re lifting, running, or punching. Take the time to get one of these seven superfoods and you might just feel like you can move mountains.
About the Author
Emily Hunter is a SEM Strategist and Outreach Supervisor at the Marketing Zen Group. She’s working with the great folks over at Promax Nutrition. She loves designing strategies with her team and is excited about spreading the Zen gospel. In her spare time, she cheers for Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, crafts her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen