Whether you are headed out running or to the gym to weight train, what you eat plays a large role in how you do in the gym.
This is a guide on how best to start when you don’t know what to eat at all.
Tips for Pre-Exercise Nutrition:
- Don’t eat something new on race day. All your training leading up to a competition or race day is in preparation for you to do well at that one event – and this includes nutrition. You want to find what works well for you while training, so you can have the best competition day possible. So if a banana and a coffee is what helps you perform your best on your long training days or on your trial race run, then you want to do the same come competition day.
- Don’t eat high fiber foods. You want to eat something that is easy for your body to digest and provide your body with the fuel it needs to perform. Anything that sits in your stomach hours after eating will cause you issues.
- Keep in mind what competition day will look like. If you train on a regular basis and don’t compete or aren’t racing, then that’s great. But if you are training for an event, keep in mind what will be available to you come that day, and work within those options. For example, if your race is out of town, you want to make sure you are eating things that are easily accessible where and when you will be racing, or something that you can easily travel with. Be realistic, and stick with what has worked well for you in training, you don’t want to be scrambling for food the morning of a big race.
- Everyone is different, if it’s not working, try something different. You want to really be in sync with what your body is telling you. If what you are eating isn’t working for your body, listen to this, and try to improve it with each training opportunity.
- Eat 2-3 hours before exercise. If it is first thing in the morning, you may want to try eating a higher carbohydrate dense meal. This will help restore your glycogen stores that have been depleted over the night.
- Stick to only drinking water the hour before training. You want to give your body the opportunity to almost fully digest what you have eaten.
- It’s not JUST what you eat before training that matters. How hydrated and fueled your body is to workout is built up over the days and weeks before hand. Eat trash all week, feel like trash at your workout. And that also means if you eat too little, eat too much or eat highly palatable and less nutritious food, it all adds up when you start relying on those energy stores to get you through a workout.
Okay, so now with all that in mind – what should you actually eat??
You will see a theme, these are all whole foods that are low in fiber but still easily digestible. But you still want to make sure you keep it simple. Create a meal plan before training that is too complicated and you either will not follow it, or will not eat anything. Which in the end, leads to more harm then good.
Here are some quick and simple meals to enjoy 2-3 hours before a heavy training session:
- Banana – this is by far my favorite, it is a super easy and a fast-acting carbohydrate that will fuel your workout without making things harder on yourself.
- Fruit with eggs – Eggs are high in protein while still being easy to digest, making them a quick source of protein for your body, while not causing you issues while you are training. For your fruit choices you want to pick low fiber and fresh fruits like banana, peaches, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon. You DON’T want to eat fruit like apples, berries, figs, dates, grapes, pears, mango, papaya and pineapple as they are higher in fiber and could cause you issues.
- Banana & Peanut Butter Toast – 1 slice of wholewheat bread with peanut (or almond) butter and a sliced banana over top is super satisfying, and also a great fuel option if your body digests wheat and peanuts well.
- Applesauce with protein powder – apples cooked and pureed are easier to digest, while mixing in protein powder gives you the added advantage of an easier to digest protein source too.
- Smoothies – some people do really well with smoothies, I like ones that are full of spinach, little bit of peach or orange juice, water and protein powder. You get more green veggies into your day, while getting in more water.
- Protein bar – not the best option, but definitely helpful in a pinch. Try to find options with the least amount of ingredients you can’t pronounce. And definitely try out the same one before relying on this before a competition or race day.
- Chicken breast and potato – browned or baked chicken with a small side of a carbohydrate rich vegetable like potatoes will fill you up while fueling you with this healthy lean protein.
- Sweet Potato and Almond Butter – may sound unusual, but it is delicious! Bake a sweet potato, and cover a couple of slices with almond butter and top with sea salt. It is sweet, salty and really satisfying. Offering whole food nutrition of the sweet potato with some added protein.
- Broth & Veggies – some simple bone broth and added veggies are a great way to get in all the benefits of bone broth, hydrate and fuel your body with cooked vegetables, that will digest easier then raw veggies.
But most importantly, you need to eat something and you need to hydrate!
What do you eat before training? Let us know what works well for you!