When it comes to eating right, our primary focus is usually keeping healthy. Our bodies are temples, and what we put them into is what we get out. Or something like that. Either way, we focus on avoiding foods we know are bad for us. Why else we would we avoid those oh so tasty, but oh so terrible fried treats? Instead, we opt for equally delicious whole foods which are sure to do much better things for our bellies.
Given that we’ve established food and health are an old married couple, we thought we would take things to the next level. Here, we’re going to talk about which meals you should be eating before working out. Whether you head to the gym once a week or join a netball class like the ones you can find from Powerplay and other companies like them, focusing on what you eat first is essential. Think of your body as a machine. You wouldn’t expect your car to do the most laborious drive of its week without filling the tank first, would you? Well, don’t force your body into working out when you haven’t eaten your fuel. Or, food, to make it sound more appealing.
Of course, many us get mixed messages about what we should actually be eating before we get going. After all, we’ve all heard the adage of waiting at least two hours after eating. And, anyone who’s experienced a stitch from trying to cheat that system will be reluctant to do it again. But, here we are telling you that food and exercise go together. What’s the deal? To help you understand, we’ve put together an eating timeline for your exercise journey.
During the day
If you don’t work out until the evening, you might not think about what you eat for the duration of the day. After all, how can something you consume at lunchtime impact your evening workout? In truth, it won’t much. But, it’s worth thinking about this anyway. If you eat a large pizza at midday, you might not feel sprightly by the time your workout rolls around. As well as making you feel heavy and bloated, food like this could impact your mentality. Heavy and processed foods often affect energy levels for a lot longer than we realise.
Instead, spare a brief thought for your exercise efforts when you wake up in the morning. You don’t need to starve yourself for the day. In fact, it would be worse if you did. Body = engine and food = fuel, remember? But, you should make an effort to opt for foods which leave you feeling energised in the right way. Natural foods, such as plenty of fruits, are fantastic here. Equally, lentils, oats, and beans are sure to work here, too. To compensate for the massive meal you would have, opt for slow-release foods which keep energy levels high through the day. Again, grains and pulses are fantastic for this, as are carbs like whole-wheat pasta or rice. And, of course, it doesn’t get better for slow release energy than a good old baked potato.
Make sure, too, to concentrate on your water intake throughout the day. While many of us know to take water along on our workouts, fewer realise the benefits of continued hydration on the lead-up. Hydration has a whole host of benefits. Most notably, keeping a water bottle with you is sure to mean good things for your energy levels.
2-3 hours pre workout
The clock is ticking, and you have about three hours until your exercise efforts begin. Many people would notice this and then not bother to eat anything. After all, you’re cutting it a bit close to the 2-hour cut-off, aren’t you? Not at all. In fact, this is the prime time for getting in your main pre-workout meal. Not eating here is sure to leave you struggling when the time comes. In truth, you should aim to consume a meal ranging from at least 400-500 calories. In an ideal world, seek to incorporate at least 20g protein and some carbohydrates to boot. Remember, too, what we said about not bloating yourself. Aim for clean and healthy foods which leave your engine running smooth. To help you get the right idea, let’s look at some meal options worth indulging in –
- Chicken and brown rice. It’s a classic, right? When we think about workout foods, the majority of us would bring this one to mind. But, it really does have everything. You chicken is a fantastic source of protein to boost your energy levels. By opting for brown rice, you get that carb fix without bloating yourself. What’s more, this is a fantastic slow-release form of carbohydrate which will ensure you’re topped up enough to get through your workout. Bear in mind, though, that brown rice takes around double the cooking time of its white counterpart. Ensure you leave plenty of time to get it finished before you need to go! Add a few veggies on the side to bring the dish together, and you’re onto a winner.
- Omelette and homemade baked beans. Omelettes are a fantastic source of healthy protein. What’s more, they’re fast to make. You can whip up one of these babies on nights where you’re pushed for time, and have it in front of you in fifteen minutes. Time is of the essence here, as eating this meal too close to take off can lead to muscle catabolism. But, giving yourself a two-hour window should be enough to avoid the eventuality. Of course, an omelette on its own isn’t exactly substantial. Hence, you should also get stuck into making your bean accompaniment. An omelette always goes down well with a tin of Heinz, but pre-prepared beans are high in sugar and best avoided. Instead, make your own using kidney beans and tinned tomatoes. These taste amazing and provide the carb fix which will keep your energy going.
- Porridge. It might sound simple, but it’s difficult to imagine a better meal before a workout. This is one of the best sources of slow-release carbs you could imagine. Use plant-based milk to ensure maximum health benefits. If you do want to use sugar, make sure to opt for a healthy alternative like dates to sweeten things up. Of course, protein is sadly lacking here. You might want to add a sprinkle of protein powder to make this the fastest pre-workout fix you could imagine.
30 minutes before workout
Many people make the mistake of thinking they should avoiding eating at all between their meal and their exercise. But, that’s not the case. In truth, a light snack around 30 minutes before you start is essential for ensuring your sugar levels are where they need to be. Neglect this, and you could soon begin to feel faint from the strain of your workout. In truth, what works here could be different for everyone. It may take trial and error before you find food which is gentle enough for digestion to avoid cramps here.
The trick is to keep it simple. Bananas are most often a safe bet, as they’re a form of healthy carbohydrate which can help to spike your blood sugar. Equally, healthy energy bars which contain oats and fruit are often a good idea. Bear in mind, though, that depends on how you digest oats. If they make you feel heavy, avoid this option. If you’re stuck for ideas, you could always opt for one or two jelly sweets. These work well because they spike sugar levels without making you feel as though you’ve eaten.
During the workout
Eating during a workout. Are we crazy?! No. In fact, any athlete out there will know this is essential. You don’t need to worry about this if your workout is less than 1 hour long. Eating in that instance would only be counterproductive. But, if you plan a long session, it’s essential you consume around 50-100 calories every half hour. Options such as yoghurt work well for this as long as they’re natural and don’t contain excessive sugar. Again, you can get your sugar fix here by incorporating dates and other fruit. And, bananas should always be to hand if they agree with you. You might even want to keep a pack of jellies around in case you start feeling wobbly.
After the workout
Of course, the efforts don’t stop there. You also need to think about eating when your engine is empty afterwards. Avoid the urge to binge on high-sugar foods in the aftermath. Instead, focus on healthy options such as fruits or protein bars. After an extreme session, you might even want to top yourself up with another bowl of oatmeal. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it might be best. If you merely temper the workout hunger with small snacks, it’s easier to fall into the habit of fast-relief sugary options. Then, finally, you can kick back and bask in your pre-workout glory.
*This is a collaborated post!