What you eat before a workout should be considered ‘critical’ says dietitian – best foods
Fitness trainer Sarah Campus shares workout routine
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Ever wondered exactly what you should be eating before a workout? For a person wanting to lose weight, gain muscle or burn body fat, it’s incredibly important for them to consider what they’re putting in their mouths when it comes to a pre-workout snack. Registered dietitian Jessica Jones, shared the meals and snacks she recommends to her clients to help them reach their fitness goals, and she said to “consider them a critical part of your training plan”.
She revealed its best to opt for foods that offer “proper nutrition” before a person completes a workout.
“I counsel my patients to eat before exercise because I think it will give them the best chance to get the most out of their workouts,” she said.
“Not eating enough before a workout can make you dizzy, lightheaded, nauseated, or lethargic.
“It can also make you more likely to injure yourself. And even if none of these things happen, skipping food can negatively impact your performance and reduce your gains.”
But she acknowledged that realistically, not everyone will always have the time or desire to eat before a workout, and offered some handy tips and snack options that will help fuel the body.
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Time pre-workout snack correctly
Jones explained: “The ideal time to eat is between 30 minutes to three hours before your workout.
“That way you’re not still digesting when you hit the gym floor, but you haven’t gone and used up all those helpful calories yet.”
She advised experimenting to see which time frame works better for a person’s body.
“If you’re working out first thing in the morning you probably won’t be able to eat a whole meal before you hit the gym,” she said.
“A small snack or mini-breakfast should suffice.”
Drink plenty of water
While noting there’s “no one-size-fits-all method” to determining fluid needs during exercise, Jones recommended drinking about two cups of water around two to three hours before exercise and one cup of water about 10 to 20 minutes before working out.
“The goal here is to minimise dehydration — which can cause low energy and muscle cramps or spasms — without drinking too much water, which isn’t easy to do but can be dangerous,” she said.
“You should also try to stay hydrated throughout your workout. Consider drinking one cup of water for every 15 to 30 minutes of intense physical activity, especially if you are sweating profusely or are training in a heated environment.
“Again this may take a bit of experimentation until you find what works best for your body.”
Opt for a pre-workout snack loaded with carbs and protein
It’s no secret carbs gives us energy, so when it comes to what to eat before a workout, carbs are the way to go – “before you exercise, ensure that you’ll have extra glucose on hand if you need it to replenish those glycogen stores”, Jones explained.
“If you’re strapped for glucose during your workout you’ll likely feel weak and tired, and will be tempted to call it quits and take a nap.”
In addition to carbs, she revealed it’s a good idea to consume a little bit of protein before a workout —especially if it’s a weight training session.
“When we do strength-training exercises such as lifting weights, we create small tears in our muscle fibres,” Jones said.
“When you rest, your body repairs those micro-tears, building up your muscles bigger and stronger than they were before—and it needs protein to do it.”
For quick energy before a workout, she recommended eating either a granola bar, a piece of fruit, oatmeal, crackers, a rice cake, or a piece of toast.
Go for sources of protein that are easy to digest like nuts, Greek yogurt, a slice of turkey, a hard-boiled egg, or a glass of regular or soy milk.
A few snacks Jones recommends are:
A smoothie with one cup of fruit and two cups of vegetables, or this protein-packed green smoothie recipe (drink half before the workout and half after)
An apple or pear with nut butter
Greek yogurt with granola and berries
Dried fruit with mixed nuts
A granola bar
Rice cakes topped with nut butter
Oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit
Baked salmon, brown rice, and roasted veggies.
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