What foods you consume before, during, and after a workout can help your performance, especially if you’re an athlete. For the best results, athletes consume energy bars, gels, and drinks because they’re easy to digest and can stop hunger in its tracks, all while giving you your energy back.
For athletes, they rely on carbohydrates for fuel, which your muscles will store as glycogen before you work out. Filling your stores completely does take time, and what you eat can contribute or stop this from happening. You must eat the right foods at the right time after you work out so that you get the best recovery and can prepare for your next training session.
The things you eat before your workout can depend on your individual needs or simply what you prefer. However, it should be tailored around your workout’s type, length, and intensity.
What You Should Eat Before Working Out
Never exercise when you’re full. Despite it seeming ideal, doing so may cause cramps, stomach ache, or nausea. Digest your food before you begin running so that you have less chance of discomfort. Digestion time varies for everyone, and it depends on what and how much you ate. But it should take anywhere from one to four hours. Experiment with different times to see when you should work out after you eat.
If you’re an early bird and work out at the crack of dawn, get up even earlier so you can have a pre-exercise breakfast. If you have little time to do so, consume something you can digest, such as an energy drink or bar. The closer you are to your workout, the fewer calories you should consume due to digestion. That’s where liquid meals come in. They digest fast so you can have the energy to run in a short timespan.
Glucose is the best source of energy, so your meal should contain easily digestible treats that are rich in carbs. Fruits, pasta, bread, drinks and energy bars are just a few foods that fit the criteria. You should plan your nutrition and realize when and what you’ll eat. This essential task is especially important if you’re running all day, such as participating in a tournament or competing in track meets. Think about when your event starts and calculate how much energy you need. Drink plenty of fluids. Plan ahead and eat only what you trust. Experimentation is great for normal exercises, but for a tournament, you should only consume the foods you trust.
Ideal Foods for Exercising
Granted, you should eat only what you can trust based on experience, but there are some guidelines. These include eating a meal four hours before you work out, eating a snack two to three hours before you go, and drinking fluids an hour beforehand. If you have less than an hour to go, eat some fresh fruit. Peaches, oranges, grapes, apples, and watermelon are fantastic. Energy gels, and sports drinks work great too.
Three to four hours before, you should eat fresh fruit, bread or bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, baked potatoes, an energy bar, cereal with milk, yogurt, toast with peanut butter, lean meats, or cheese, and something with sugar. Once again, add plenty of water.
Two to three hours before you compete, you should eat some fresh fruits, bread, bagels, pasta, or yogurt, and drink some water.
For endurance, you should eat some sugar about 40 minutes before an event. This can give you energy when your stores have become low. That said, don’t experiment before a competition. Some people cannot do well after their blood glucose jumps.
Caffeine and its Role in Performance
We all know caffeine is a stimulant. People say it boosts your endurance by giving you a better use of fat for your energy, and keeping your glycogen reserved. However, research says that this idea isn’t true. It helps improve your endurance, but only as a stimulant. Also, for some people, caffeine may have side effects. Those who are sensitive to it may have muscle tremors, nausea, and headaches. If you’re going to have caffeine, be smart about it. Too much can result in lowered performance and dehydration.
What You Should Never Eat Before Working Out
Never consume foods containing too much fiber and fat. These can be slow to digest, and thus cause you to feel sluggish. Because they will take your blood into the stomach to help with digestion, they’ll lead to discomfort and cramping. Don’t eat candy bars, fries, meats, potato chips, and doughnuts as a pre-workout meal!
But once again, everyone operates differently. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Think about what you can and can’t work with, and adjust your eating plan according to that.