How to Fuel Your Fitness
Energy boosts throughout the day are invigorating, and it’s extra-important to be energized and awake before a workout so you can get the most out of it. However, finding a pre-workout snack can involve a lot of trial, error, and wasted time at the gym. The right snack will give you an energy boost, and pump you up rather than drag you down. It should be enough to temporarily satiate hunger, but not so much that you are stuffed to the brim when you try to work out.
Timing can also be tricky. You want a quick snack you can fit in before your workout, but it can be hard to know just how long before hitting the gym you should fuel up. Here, we’ll clear up the confusion and recommend the best time to eat, the ideal foods and beverages for fuel, and how much to consume pre-workout to get you the best results possible.
How long before a workout should you eat? The rule of thumb is: the more you plan to eat, the more time you should leave before working out. After a big meal, wait three to four hours before you hit the gym. A small meal can be eaten two to three hours before a workout, and you should be safe to leave as little as an hour after eating a snack. Fueling up before a workout means planning ahead — which is actually a great habit. When workouts are scheduled into your daily life, they are much more likely to happen. Once you have planned when to work out, it’s simple to decide, based on the time of day and your schedule, when to have a snack or meal. If you choose to schedule a workout later in the day, such as after work, make sure to be cognizant of your eating throughout the morning and afternoon. Your lunch will help fuel your energy later in the day, and even though it seems like a long time until your workout, it will likely be the last big meal you eat before hitting the gym. Eating too close to exercising can make you feel full and sluggish during your workout. In addition to that, you want your snack to do more than stave off hunger. It should give you nutrition and energy. Eating a snack right before your workout with no time in between doesn’t leave the food enough time to work its way into your body and start providing the energy you need. Staying hydrated is also an important part of getting the most out of a workout. Again, drinking too much water right before or during exercise can weigh you down — but of course water shouldn’t be avoided altogether. Try to drink two or three cups of water during the two to three hours prior to exercising. To stay hydrated during your exercise, drink a half cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Remember that you will lose more water and will need more to replace it when it’s hot out. Make sure to drink a few cups of water post workout too to replace what you sweat out. Water is generally the best beverage to hydrate with, unless you are working out intensely for a long time. In that case, a sports beverage can help replace electrolytes and provide carbohydrates for added energy. When working out intensively, you may require small snacks along the way — there’s no need to stop for toast during an hour-long session at the gym, but in an extended race, snacks can be a very good thing.
Carbohydrates are the key when it comes to pre-exercise foods. They will raise your blood sugar and give you a boost of energy. Of course healthy foods have the best nutrition. Make sure to get at least some carbs in your snack or meal to boost your energy. Here are some healthy and balanced snack ideas to get you energized for your next workout: Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas sliced on top. Low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt with berries. Bananas or apples with natural almond butter. Trail mix with healthy ingredients like nuts, seeds and dried fruits — take it easy on the chocolate and other unhealthy ingredients. Smoothies made with fruit, yogurt, 100% juice or fat-free milk, and protein powder if you prefer. Limit the protein to 10 to 20 grams — that’s enough pre-workout. Oatmeal with fruit like apples or blueberries and nuts. A lot of your meal routine will be learned through trial and error. Starting with these tips will get you well on your way, but you’ll soon learn what foods and timing work best for you and your schedule. Not everyone has the time to make a from-scratch smoothie before going to the gym — maybe it works better for you to eat a bag of nuts on your commute. It’s not about making your life harder: it’s about finding what works best for you to get the energy you need to have a great workout every time!