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Young boy and girl doing exercise in the gym
We’ve all heard the importance of pre- and post-workout nutrition but you may not know why you need to eat prior to working out or what exactly will really give you some workout fuel. While food preference for pre-workout will vary depending upon each person, the type of exercise and level of intensity, why it is needed pretty much remains a constant. According to Dr. Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of California Davis and author of Eat Smart, Play Hard , “A pre-workout meal should be centered around mostly carbs, keeping it low in fat because it’s slow to digest and moderate in protein . . . A bowl of cereal and 1% milk with sliced banana is a good start for a morning workout.”

Why Do You Need This Energy?

Because as you exercise, especially with intense exercise, your stored energy is used up and your body turns to glycolysis to replace this energy. Glycolysis converts sugars (carbs) into ATP (muscle energy) and ultimately the exact energy needed to contract muscle. So wouldn’t you want the ingredients that increase energy and build muscle packing into your pre-workout snack?

Your Pre-Workout Meal Is Designed To:
  • Help prevent low-blood sugar which can wreak havoc on your energy level and result in being light-headed and a loss in concentration;
  • Prevent hunger during your workout;
  • Feel your muscle and liver carbohydrate stores to provide lasting energy; and,
  • Make you feel strong and energized.

What you take prior to working can not only make or break your exercise performance but your muscle gains (and we all want more muscle – it burns more of that pesky fat). So, while you need to eat according to the amount of energy you’ll be expending during your workout, here are some basic pre-workout snack guidelines. Get the most out of your meal by making it:

  • Low in fat and fiber which will minimize GI distress
  • Low in simple sugars like candy because they can send your blood sugar levels shooting down which leads to a drop in energy
  • High in good carbohydrates (ie. vegetables and fruits – 25g) to maintain your blood glucose levels which prevent an energy crash
  • Moderate to high in protein (15-20g) to give you staying power throughout your entire workout and minimize protein breakdown

So you know why you need to eat before you workout out, now here are some great pre-workout snack suggestions.

  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
  • Smoothie made with Zone protein, milk (skim or unsweetened vanilla almond milk) and fresh or frozen fruit
  • An apple spread with one teaspoon of almond, cashew or all-natural peanut butter
  • Hardboiled egg with 1 cup strawberries
  • Half a banana with some all-natural peanut butter
  • 4 slices of turkey in a whole-wheat wrap
  • Wholegrain tortilla wrap with 3 ounces of tuna with sliced veggies
  • Greek yogurt parfait with berries and granola

Next time you are in a bind for what to do to fuel your work, try one of the snacks above.

What types of foods do you feel help you get fueled for your workout?