We have covered the types of food you should eat before and after a workout, but what about the food you should not eat? Some food will sit heavy in your stomach, some will cause bloating and excessive burps. Some might actually want to come up again during a more intensive workout. Avoiding the bad pre-workout foods is as important as eating the good foods.
Your body needs fuel before a workout, especially a long cario or weight training session – without adequate nutrition you will be forced to stop exercising before you have completed your planned exercise. This means reduce fitness or strength gains, and that can be the difference between beating your PB, winning a fight or losing weight and making no progress. Note – most of these meals are OK if eaten over an hour before you exercise.
Burger and fries
Really it should go without saying – why would you eat junk food just before a workout? Why eat junk food at all?
But what is the real problem? The problem is all the fat. High fat foods take longer to digest so they will be sitting in your gut while you exercise. This means that you are not getting the energy from the food and it will probably also make you feel a bit sick.
Salads are of course super healthy. But just before a workout they are far from ideal. The high fiber content means that, like with the burgers above, they take a long time to pass through your digestive system. This can cause cramps and stomach pain while exercising.
Tuna is a great source of protein, but eating a tuna sandwich before a workout is a bad idea most of the time, especially a tuna mayo one. It will repeat on you and leave you feeling bloated and sick.
Chocolate is full of energy, so much be a great pre-workout snack, right? Wrong! Lots of sugar will cause an insulin spike and then a crash. The fat will cause the same problems as mentioned above. Chocolate is a treat, not sports nutrition!
During my time studying human nutrition we were taught one basic fact about sports drinks – they are only for endurance sports, and to be taken after (or during in long events) training. The purpose of a sports drink is to quickly replenish glycogen stores in the muscles following a training session. If you do not do this the body will start breaking down muscle tissue to raise sugar levels.
If you are not working out for two hours then you probably do not need the added sugar so desperately. You certainly do not need a big sugar kick before a workout – your muscles should be full and ready to go already.
Nuts and seeds
They are healthy, full of energy and goodness, and easy to snack on before working out. So why are they bad? Again, they will digest slowly and not give you much pre-workout benefit, and sit in your stomach and gut while you exercise.
Spices can cause heartburn and indigestion, especially if you are exercising. The food is also likely to repeat on you which is unpleasant for you and anybody you are training with.
So, the worse meal you could have before a workout is a spicy burger on a seeded bun with a salad, a sports drink, and some chocolate. You have been warned!
What to eat?
An old favorite is bananas. Quick and easy to digest, full of energy and they also contain potassium which helps to the conversion of glucose into glycogen – so the banana you eat before a workout will get into your muscles where it is needed much quicker than most other foods.
For more information on what to eat before a workout, read our article “A Guide To Workout Nutrition“.