Whether you’re a recreational exerciser or an experienced athlete looking to enhance performance, proper nourishment is key. A consistent, nutritionally dense diet is the best way to ensure your body is always primed for exercise, but small, strategically balanced meals before a workout can give your body’s efficiency a boost.
First, a little science lesson: your body’s primary source of fuel (in life, not just in exercise!) is glucose, which is stored primarily in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Secondary fuel sources include fat and, quite rarely, protein. For short, high-intensity bouts of exercise, glycogen is the body’s go-to fuel source, but glycogen stores are not unlimited, so for longer, moderate-intensity activities, the body will call on fat.
If you can, eating a light meal with good sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fats two to three hours before a workout may give you the most bang for your energy buck. If you’re short on time or have a more delicate digestive system, that may not be realistic. You can try a small snack that leans more toward carbs but contains some protein; protein enhances the body’s glycogen storage capacity and has a heavy hand in muscle repair, which is necessary to alleviate soreness and strengthen muscles!
First, do you actually need a snack?
Make sure you actually need a snack! If you’re good about getting proper nutrition throughout the day, your body may have all it needs to propel you through an exercise session.
If you do, here’s how soon you can eat before a workout:
The closer you get to workout time, the smaller your meal should be. Eating less than 30 minutes before exercise can cause gastrointestinal issues, so it’s best to get your fuel in outside the 30-minute window. Now, what you came here for…the snack recommendations!
2-3 hours ahead of exercise:
- Two eggs with sliced avocado, a piece of whole-grain toast, and fresh fruit
- Sandwich with lean meat, avocado, light cheese, and mixed greens on the side
- Roasted lean meat (such as chicken), brown rice or quinoa, and steamed veggies
- Overnight oats with peanut butter and hemp seeds
1 hour ahead of exercise:
- Slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and one sliced banana
- A half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese, fresh fruit, and a slice of whole-grain toast
- 2 – 3 no-bake protein balls and an 8 oz. glass of orange juice
- Fruit smoothie with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
30 minutes ahead of exercise:
- 12 ounces of coconut water (an excellent source of carbohydrates and essential electrolytes, like potassium) and one banana
- 8 ounces of milk or a dairy alternative (almond milk or oat milk) and a handful of blueberries
- 8 ounces of orange juice and a granola or protein bar (try to pick a bar without lots of extra sugar and other additives)
Happy fueling! As always, consult your doctor or nutritionist with any questions.
xx, The FabFitFun Team