Do you ever get tired or sick to your stomach halfway through your workout? Are you starving right after your gym class? Or maybe you’re not getting the results you are expecting. If so, you’re pre-workout meal or snack may be to blame!

If your activity or workout lasts less than one hour, there are no clear guidelines for nutrition before or after the workout (sorry!). In general, a well-balanced diet consisting of all 4 food groups should be able to provide you with the right amount of energy to power through your activity as well as enough protein for recovery. BUT, if you fall into any of the scenarios described above, optimising your pre-workout nutrition can help you feel great while working out and lead to great results. Below are solutions to the most common workout issues:

I am too tired during my workout

This may be because there’s too long of a gap between the last thing you ate and your workout or you’re not eating the right foods. Energy comes mainly from carbs (yes, I said carbs!); they should be your best friend pre-workout. Some great sources include fruit, smoothies, bread and crackers, and dairy products. The time between your last meal and workout will depend on your tolerance. Some people can eat a complete meal an hour before their workout without feeling sick, while others will eat 2 hours before and will feel their meal coming back up. This will require some trial and error, but you can find some helpful tips in the next paragraph.

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I feel nauseous/stomach pain

This again may be due to poor meal timing or because of the foods you eat. Protein, fat, and fiber are slower to digest and may be the culprit of your stomach issues. So try to avoid things like nuts and seeds, whole grains, legumes, eggs, and other high-protein, high-fat and high-fiber foods within 2 hours of your workout.

I am starving right after my workout and eat too later

This is because the last meal or snack was too long before your workout or too little in calories. If you don’t eat enough before, you will end up starving right after. When we are starving, we tend to either overeat or make poor food choices, both of which will counteract your workout efforts!

So what should I eat pre-workout?

Here are some general rules for you to follow depending on the time of your meal/snack:

Time before the workout What Example
3-4 hours Regular, full balanced meal Moderate to high in carbohydrates Moderate protein 1.5 cup pasta with meat sauce (3 oz meat) with a side salad and a fruit
2-3 hours Smaller meal

High in carbohydrates

Moderate protein

Tuna or egg or chicken sandwich with a side salad and a fruit
1-2 hours Snack

Very high in carbohydrates

Low in protein

1 slice of bread with peanut butter and 1 banana

 

Less than 1 hour Small snack

Mostly carbohydrates

1 fruit or

1 cup fruit and milk smoothie

 

 

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