What to Eat Before You Hit the Gym

What to Eat Before You Hit the Gym

Not sure what to eat before you exercise? Successfully integrating exercise into your routine is less about how you feel about it than how you decide to do it. The old Nike slogan, “Just Do It!” rings true. If you are still trying to figure out if you should work out, this article is not for you. If you want to know what to eat before you work out, you have come to the right place.

Should I Fast Before Working Out?

You may have heard that to burn more fat, you should fast prior to working out. As is often the case, the answer to this question is, that depends. For more information, check out this great article from LifeHacker.com on why you shouldn’t eat on an empty stomach.

OK, so if that settles the to eat or not to eat question, read on. Now the question is, what should I eat before I work out. Here is some solid advice from Healthline.com:

“Carbs help maximize your body's ability to use glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises, while fat helps fuel your body for longer exercise sessions. Eating protein helps improve muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle damage and promote recovery.”

So now that you have a quick summary of the science around the issue, let’s get down to the real questions.

What Types of Foods Should I Eat Before a Workout?

There are four key ingredients needed to fuel your upcoming workout:

  1. Protein
  2. Carbohydrates
  3. Fats
  4. Fluids

How Long Before I Work Out Should I Eat?

How much you take in prior to your workout depends on two things:

  • The intensity of your workout
  • How far in advance you plan to eat before working out

The more intense your workout is, the more protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats you will need to eat to fuel your workout AND, the further in advance you will need to eat.

Low to Moderate-Intensity Workouts

For example, if you plan to work out moderately (briskly walk, bike or hike a few miles), you won’t have to worry as much about how much or when you eat. For example, if you work out moderately, choose the following options 1-2 hours before you work out:

  • Granola with fruit and nuts, with milk
  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Trail mix with fruit and nuts, and a banana

Moderate to High-Intensity Workouts

If you are a serious athlete or workout enthusiast, you should eat these type of meals 2-3 hours before your workout:

  • Egg sandwich on whole-grain bread and a piece of fruit
  • Turkey and veggies in a whole grain wrap
  • Fish, brown rice and vegetables

Hydrate Before You Workout

No matter what, hydration is key before and after a workout. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking at least 16  ounces of water at least four hours before exercise or at least 8 ounces 10–15 minutes before exercise.

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