Poor fuel can be the difference between a bad workout and a great one. But, knowing what to eat before a workout can be tough. As a sports dietitian I’m here to tell you which foods that are best for digestion, energy and performance. And as a runner I’ll personally tell you I’ve had my share of good fuel days and bad ones, and fueling is definitely not a one size fits all approach.
My best advice: test some different foods, quantity and timing.
Regardless of what you choose try to follow the general guidelines that simple, easily digested carbohydrates are best for pre-workout.
The best options are whole foods such as fruits or sprouted grains. Small amounts of healthy fats, and protein can also be included, such as coconut oil and nut butters, especially if duration or intensity will be extensive. This combination will give you both immediate and sustained energy.
Try to avoid refined options such as pasta, white breads or refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, all of which can lead to inflammation and fatigue as well as high fiber and high protein, both of which require a lot of energy from the body and more time to digest, and can cause GI upset (not something you want mid-workout!)
Aim for approximately 100 – 200 calories and choose to eat around 30 – 60 minutes before a workout.
1. Bread and Jam
1 slice sprouted whole grain bread with jam, nut butter optional and recommended if working out over 45 minutes.
2. Fresh Fruit
A banana is an easy option
3. Sports Drink
Drinks can be convenient, but make sure it’s clean. Avoid added flavorings, dyes or processed sugars such as maltodextrin. My favorite: Vega Preworkout Energizer, which delivers functional sugars for immediate and sustained energy, yerba mate and green tea for energy and mental clarity, electrolytes for hydration and more.
4. Fruit and Nut
3-4 dates with 1 tablespoon almond butter or ¼ cup fruit and nut trail mix
5. Simple Fruit Smoothie
½ cup frozen fruit, ½ banana, coconut water or non-dairy milk beverage, ½ scoop protein powder (optional).
Post contributed by Kim McDevitt, MPH RD. As a registered dietitian and Regional Educator with Vega, Kim has a passion for teaching the power of nutrient dense, plant-based foods. Specializing in sports nutrition to enhance athletic performance. Kim focuses on realistic and approachable ways to improve your health, by guiding you through educated dietary choices within an active lifestyle. Connect with Kim and Vega on Twitter.