Properly Fueling Your Workouts: Part Three - Pre-Workout Nutrition
By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN
For the last two weeks we have discussed calorie and macronutrient goals to properly fuel your active lifestyle. This week, I’d like to discuss how to properly fuel right before your workout. This is extremely important to maximize results. With proper nutrition, you can improve your performance by increasing stamina, endurance, and strength. If you don’t properly fuel your body before a workout, you could feel tired, slow, and weak.
I’m going to guess that the majority of you pay little attention, if any, to what you eat before you workout. So you may be saying “I feel fine in my workouts, why do I need to properly fuel?” Well, how do you know you feel fine? If you have never considered proper nutrition before a workout, you may be exercising at status quo, so-to-speak. You are so used to the way you feel, you think it is normal. But, proper fueling can take you to the next level that maybe, you have never experienced on the court or in the gym.
The purpose of pre-workout fueling is to help prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), settle your stomach, fuel your working muscles, and ward off hunger. Low blood sugar can be a serious issue when you are exercising. You could feel weak, slow, lightheaded, dizzy, and even pass out. This all puts you at risk for serious injury.
So how do we fuel properly before a workout? The key is simple carbohydrates. Simple carbs are quick and easy to absorb making them immediately available for fuel. Any snack consumed within an hour of exercise should be a simple carbohydrate. Examples include:
Granola or granola bar
Dry cereal - not too high in fiber or protein
Piece of bread
A few crackers
These snacks are great for those early morning workouts. Have a small piece of fruit or half a granola bar to get you energized in the morning.
If you exercise mid-late afternoon, consume a well-balanced breakfast and lunch. About 90 minutes or 2 hours before your workout, have a well-balanced snack that includes a healthy carbohydrate and protein. Examples include:
Cottage cheese and fruit
Peanut butter and banana
Slice of bread or english muffin with peanut butter
String cheese and fruit
Handful of nuts and apple
Healthy energy bar
You want to avoid heavy meals and snacks prior to a workout. These take longer to digest which can cause you digestive upset during your workout and also slow you down. So skip the burger and fries at lunch and opt for a lighter option like a salad.
Lastly, always make sure you “test” a food before a big match, race, or competition. We all digest foods differently. You may be able to tolerate bananas right before exercise, but energy bars don’t sit well. This is not something you want to find out in the middle of a big event. Try foods out in training rather than the day of an event.
Next week, we will wrap up our proper fueling series with post-workout nutrition and hydration!