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by Casey McIlvaine

In order to have a safe and productive workout, you have to provide your body with the enough fuel in the form of food for energy while ensuring that what and when you eat keeps your stomach steady. Since many people often skip pre-exercise meals due to lack of time or not knowing what to eat, we’ve compiled some examples of what to eat before exercise and when to eat so that you get the most out of your workout.


When to eat is equally important as what to eat before exercise as the time to properly digest the food is imperative to avoiding stomach cramps or a sluggish feeling during the workout. Experts agree that eating about an hour or more before an exercise regimen for a light meal and several hours for a heavier meal is the best guideline. Ideally, you should eat something that is easily digestible like yogurt or fruit before a workout and save the meal until afterwards.

When it comes to what to eat before exercise, a combination of simple and complex carbohydrates is always good for both fast energy fuel and slower release of energy fuel. In the morning, foods like a whole-grain bagel with jam or honey can provide that type of energy throughout a workout. Oatmeal is also a great morning food before a workout as it is easily digestible and provides long lasting energy. If protein shakes are your thing, mix them with added carbs in a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio. That translates to adding some oats and a banana for the needed 10 to 20 grams of carbs for slow and fast energy release during the workout.

In addition, you can consider a slice of whole-wheat bread with low-fat cheese for that protein/carb balance. Toast and scrambled egg whites will also work well. Greek yogurt is all the rage now as it has a significant protein and carbohydrate mix.

healthy food

Caffeine in moderation such as via an espresso or an eight to twelve ounce cup of coffee can provide a safe energy boost for a morning workout. Be sure to avoid any sugary or caffeinated beverages to steer clear of any gas pains during exercise. Most importantly, be sure to eat something along with the beverage.

If your schedule or preference dictates eating lunch or dinner before exercise, try brown rice and chicken to keep it light on your stomach while providing the carbs and protein you’ll need during exercise. Legumes are always good since beans and lentils contain good levels of protein and carbohydrates. This works best for a meal that is nearer to two hours before you work out.

Snacks can fit in when you plan to exercise long after your last meal. Although things like energy or low fat granola bars, bananas or other fresh fruit as well as fruit smoothies or Yogurt won’t give you extra energy, they will boost blood sugar and tamp down hunger pangs. It’s important to remember that the right foods can act as fuel and also be good and good for you. Just remember that a good rule of thumb for the bet food before a workout is “everything in moderation.”


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