Eating Before or After Exercise – Part 1: Before Exercising

All set to sweat? Not so fast! When it comes to eating, timing is critical. The last thing your exercise routine needs is a full stomach of food it can’t use. Lucky for you, proper nutrition isn’t rocket science and with our advice, you’ll be munching your way to your best sweat session yet.

Food for thought – Eating before exercise

Now we all know how tempting it is to skip the calories but the food you eat before exercise is vital in fueling your workout. It’s important to understand that eating at the wrong or right time can be the difference between you reaching your personal best or failing your sets through stomach cramps. Fuel yourself correctly and feel energized as you muscle your way through your exercise routine and become that one step closer to achieving your goals. Here are 3 energizing fundamentals equipping you for gym success.

1. Time it to fight it

Food is usually digested after 2-3 hours after eating. Having your pre-workout meal 2-3 hours before your exercise session will allow your body to digest the food and absorb its nutritional goodness as well its energy. Therefore, you can eat a more complex meal containing protein, fat and fiber, which take longer to break down.

However sometimes we don’t have the luxury of 2-3 hours to organize our meal before our gym session. So as a general rule of thumb, always remember when it comes to your pre-workout meal, you can have it whenever you want but the closer you get to your routine, the simpler the food should be. If you can hear your stomach rumbling as you walk out the front door, don’t forget you can never go wrong with a small piece of fruit. Always remember every time you eat, it’s an opportunity to nourish your body.

2. Power, speed and endurance – Assess your intensity

You don’t want your body to be consuming any extra energy on digestion when you need it to perform. The last thing you want to be doing is muscling your way through a stomach cramp. It’s important to assess your routine intensity to ensure that your pre-workout meal satisfies your exercise needs. Despite all the temptations, sometimes simply lacing up your sneakers doesn’t justify a big, hearty snack. So plan appropriately and ensure that your meal size isn’t too big nor too small.

3. The first wealth is health – Fuel up

So how should you pre-game your pre-workout for maximum performance? The ideal pre-workout meal should have some protein, some carbohydrates, and a little healthy fat. If you have 2-3 hours before your exercise routine, depending on the intensity of your workout, a complex meal is suitable. However if you are low on time, a more simple meal is better suited ensuring you are sufficiently fueled without causing any stomach cramps or bloating. Below are few examples of both complex and simple meals providing you with some healthy inspiration for the kitchen.

Complex Pre-Workout Meals

Veggie Omelet

  • Recipe: 2 whole eggs, 2 egg whites, peppers, onions, mushrooms, grapefruit/oatmeal
  • Best for: Muscle-building. Consume one to two hours before exercise.
  • Calories: 321; Protein: 26 g; Fat: 18 g; Carbs: 13 g; Sugars: 6.47 g

Chicken and Vegies

  • Recipe: 180g  grilled chicken with sweet potato and broccoli
  • Best for: Muscle building and circuit training. Consume two to three hours before exercise.
  • Calories: 368; Protein: 59 g; Fat: 9 g; Carbs: 37 g; Sugars: 11 g

Simple Pre-Workout Meals

Fruit and Cottage

  • Recipe: 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup fresh berries or melon. Add a banana for endurance.
  • Best for: Endurance or circuit training. Consume 30-60 minutes before exercise
  • Calories: 117; Protein: 14 g; Fat: 0.1 g; Carbs: 13 g; Sugars: 6 g

 Our Staff pick

pre work out meal

Always remember that finding a suitable eating plan involves experimentation. Whatever you decide to eat before a workout, you’ll need to tryout with what works for you and fits with your personal goals to ensure you have an effective workout. Listen to your body and recognize the effects that the food had on your performance. Key signs such as your energy levels, fatigue, dizziness, stomach aches and cramps are all good signals of how effective your pre-workout meal has been. Then, adjust as necessary to find the right pre-workout meal for you.