Pre-Workout Nutrition – Should You Eat Before a Workout?

One of the most common questions people ask when they get into fitness is, “should I eat, or should I fast before a workout?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t one-size-fits-all. What it boils down to is the type of workout you are doing, and your own personal preference. No one wants to feel sick because of a full stomach, but you also don’t want to be low energy and sluggish at the gym. Food is fuel, and while some studies have shown a higher rate of fat loss during fasted workouts, most professionals agree that your body needs proper fuel beforehand to get in an effective workout. 

So let’s break it down. Fueling your body before exercising comes with a whole list of benefits including:

  1. Increased performance when exercising 
  2. Helps increase energy and prevent fatigue
  3. Can lessen the risk of injury during a workout
  4. Aids in recovery post workout

The next step is knowing what types of foods you should be prioritizing before a workout. Fueling your body with the right nutrients before a workout will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better. Carbs, proteins, and fats are three macronutrients that have key roles in not only fueling the body, but sustaining energy, and repairing muscle damage. 

  1. Eat Carbohydrates for Energy

Carbohydrates are what keep your energy high for the duration of your workout. Carbohydrates are one of the body’s best fuel sources due to the efficient way in which it uses oxygen. The glycogen stores in your liver and muscles depend on your carbohydrate intake. Your body converts glycogen to glucose which your muscles use as a source of fuel for your workout. This means that your ability to exercise is limited by the amount of glucose in the body. If your body doesn’t have enough glycogen to sustain you, it will start burning fat for energy. Fat burns at a much slower rate than carbohydrates which will slow you down, making carbohydrates something you should prioritize in your pre workout meal!

  1. Eat Protein for Muscle Recovery 

To repair muscle damage, your body needs protein. Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for your muscles. An adequate supply of protein will help your muscles recover from workout stress, especially if your workouts include weight training. Including some protein in your pre workout meal may help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness!

  1. Eat Fats for Endurance

Fat is another macronutrient that provides fuel for the body. If you’re participating in a longer workout, our body uses fat for energy after your glucose supply has been depleted. However, you should keep in mind that some fats can be more beneficial for people than others. For example, Saturated and trans fats raise total blood cholesterol levels. However, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found in many plant based foods and oils) can help regulate oxygen, cardiovascular health, hormone regulation, and immune health. 

Now that we’ve established why pre workout meals are important and what you should include in your pre workout meals, here are a few examples of some meals and snacks to try before your next workout!

  1. Oatmeal with peanut butter and banana 
  2. Toast with peanut butter and honey
  3. Protein shake or smoothie 
  4. Turkey or grilled chicken with rice 
  5. Pulled chicken, sweet potatoes, and a vegetable
  6. Pita and hummus
  7. Yogurt and granola 
  8. Turkey wrap with hummus, tomatoes, and lettuce
  9. Cheese and crackers 
  10. Apple and almond butter 

Keep in mind, everyone’s body is different, so don’t be afraid to try different things until you find what works best for you! The most important thing is to listen to your body and give it the fuel it needs to get you through every workout, no matter the length or the intensity. 

Want help managing your nutrition? Reach out to a coach today for nutrition coaching!

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