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There has long been a focus on what to eat or drink after a workout to optimize your efforts and help with recovery. But did you know that what you eat before a workout can have just as great an impact on your overall results?
Why It’s a Good Idea to Eat a Snack Before Working Out
Healthy nutrition is important for everyone, but if you’re striving for weight loss, muscle gain, faster speed or improved endurance, you need to pay extra attention to what you’re eating and drinking: Working out on an empty stomach can lead to muscle fatigue, cramps, hunger pangs, weakness and even dizziness. In contrast, fueling up beforehand will give you the energy you need to perform at your peak.
If you’re exercising for less than 60 minutes, you likely don’t need a pre-workout snack unless you haven’t eaten in the past four hours or feel hungry. But if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, you will likely benefit.
Benefits of pre-workout snacks include:
- Enhanced results
- Faster recovery
- Improved focus and performance
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced risk for injury
What are the Best Snacks Before a Workout?
In general, it’s best to select a snack that has carbohydrates and protein, and that’s low in sugar and fat. Change up your gym day routine by trying any of these great pre-workout snacks:
- Handful of nuts and dried fruit
- Egg sandwich on an English muffin
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Low-fat Greek yogurt with granola
- Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread
The best foods to eat before exercise also depends on what kind of exercise you’re doing. For example, the ideal snacks for weight training or lifting are high in protein, which is the building block of your muscles. The best pre-gym snacks for weight training include hard-boiled eggs, protein bars and shakes and low-fat Greek yogurt. Runners, however, should prepare their bodies with a mix of carbohydrates and protein. A banana with a spoonful of peanut butter, for instance, is a great way to fuel a run.
On the other hand, there are certain foods you should avoid, like greasy, spicy or highly acidic foods since they can contribute to fatigue, dehydration, upset stomach and acid reflux.
How Soon Can I Work Out After Eating?
Working out on an empty stomach can lead to poor performance and potential health risks. However, working out too close to eating can also have negative consequences. Leave enough time between pre-workout meals and exercise. The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends waiting the following amount of time between eating and working out:
- 30 to 60 minutes after a light snack
- 1 to 2 hours after a small meal
- 3 to 4 hours after a large meal
Help is Always Nearby
Talk with your doctor before adding any exercise to your routine. Aside from ensuring it will contribute to your whole health and overall goals, they can offer ideas for getting the most out of your efforts.