No matter what your health goals are, consuming a pre-workout meal or snack is highly recommended. This ensures that your body can perform well for your full workout.
Not only is what you eat important, but the time you eat is also important. It is recommended that you eat at least 30 minutes before your workout. This is because blood is more readily pumped to your muscles during your workouts resulting in reduced blood flow to your stomach. Therefore you don’t want your stomach to work too hard to digest any pre-workout snacks. This can lead to an uncomfortable workout, hindering any potential progress.
Avoid these 11 pre-workout snacks to enjoy a well-fuelled session without any unnecessary pain.
Nuts, particularly Almonds
Almonds are generally a great snack, just not before a workout. They are high in protein (good for post-workout) and fat but the outer skin contains a lot of fibre. The high fibre content causes digestion problems and cramp whilst working out as it requires your stomach to do some extra work.
These are similar to nuts, a great snack, but only at the right times. High in fibre contents in small servings, is a big no for pre-workout snacks. Flax seeds can take up to 2 hours for the stomach to digest, therefore you will need a big window before a workout to be able to consume. Also high in fatty acids which is not a good ingredient for a good workout, often causing uncomfortable pain.
Carbonated Drinks and Fruit Juice
Due to the fizzy nature of soda and other carbonated drinks, they cause your stomach to expand with gas. This can leave you feeling bloated and make working out more difficult, with more discomfort. You may get a quick release of energy due to high sugar content but the inevitable crash will likely ruin your workouts.
Fruit juice (from whole fruit) is a great alternative to many drinks, however, not recommended before a workout. This is due to the high fructose levels, a sugar that does not digest easily. Leading to potential stomach cramps, especially for those that are fructose sensitive. If you do wish to consume fruit juice before a workout, try and leave an hour between drinking and working out.
Unripe bananas contain mostly starch, making up the majority of their dry weight. A high amount is a resistant starch, which is not digested in the small intestine. This digestion problem can lead to an uncomfortable workout, due to stomach cramps. However, a banana that’s yellow and ripe is perfect for a pre-workout snack. It contains lots of potassium quick-digesting carbs for muscle support.
These products are often heavy and contain a surprising amount of fat. Making them hard to digest also results in stomach cramps and pain. Also, dairy products are an obvious pass for those that are lactose intolerant or sensitive. This includes store-bought smoothies. Many popular smoothie brands are selling you nutritional failures. Unfortunately, they often use fruit juice instead of whole fruit, reducing the nutritional value. This results in contents full of sugar and lots of milk.
High Fibre Vegetables
Many vegetables are high in raffinose, a complex sugar that the body struggles to break down. When broken down, a lot of gas is produced. High sulphur content also leads to gas production, this is not great for your workout or anyone near your workout.
You already know by now that high fibre spells disaster.
Fibre is required for your body, but not before a workout. The likes of Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower can be hard to digest, leading to uncomfortable exercise. However, there are plenty of veggies that are easier on your system, like well-cooked asparagus.
Fried Fatty Foods
Fried fatty foods before the gym – a mistake you only make once. The saturated fats are harder to digest and stay in the stomach for longer. Resulting in bloating, cramping and feeling uncomfortably full. Do you know how after you eat something, fried you get that feeling where you just need to lay down? Yeah, not ideal for a workout.
Some lucky people may be able to stomach a hot bowl of pad Thai, but spicy foods can cause heartburn due to stimulation of the nervous system. This is not optimal for your workouts and we advise you to avoid spicy foods around 24 hours before, to allow the GI tract to rest.
It is not so important to avoid protein shakes before a workout, but the benefits of a protein shake will not be utilised sufficiently. Protein is for muscle building and repair, you only need a small amount of protein before or during a session. Protein shakes are most effective post-workout, this is when your body will absorb protein readily.
This goes without saying, alcohol is not good for working out. Not only can working out under the influence lead to injury, but it is also dehydrating due to its diuretic properties. Alcohol also suppresses fat oxidation which, long term, will make it harder to reach your body goals.
Often people look to caffeine as a pre-workout stimulant, opting for their favourite coffee. From lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and many more. Not only can the caffeine in these drinks dehydrate you, but the milk and sugar can lead to stomach pain during workouts. On top of this, an energy boost from caffeine may also be met with an energy crash which may affect your workout or the rest of the day.
But what do you eat?
A pre-workout snack should contain a balance of both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrate intake before a workout is most important as it provides your body with the energy it needs to perform.