Good nutrition is essential for optimal athletic performance. The right combination of foods before your workout can help you not only achieve new goals, but also feel your best while doing it and help you recover afterwards.
Now that you understand the importance of nutrition, I am going to share with you the biggest takeaway: don’t skip the carbohydrates! All of the macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) can play a role towards your pre-workout nutrition, but carbohydrates are the most important to consider in this category.
It is important to note that with most nutritional recommendations, the key to optimal meal-planning for fitness is individualization, which can mean some trial and error. If you are feeling like you can’t make it through a class or a routine or feeling extra fatigued during or after your workout, a few tweaks to your nutrition could be part of your solution.
So, why carbs? Carbohydrates are your body’s major fuel source; they provide fuel for the muscles that you will be using during your workout. The science tells us that the glucose from the carbohydrates you eat gets stored in your muscles (and liver) and during workouts you use what is stored as your energy! But these stores are limited and as they run out your energy can as well. So, think about this – the harder and longer you are working the more carbohydrates you may need!
Now that you know you need them, where can you find them? Great question! Carbohydrates can be found in many places; think fruits, potatoes, whole grains, beans, legumes, some vegetables, pastas, breads, and even select dairy products.
You know you need them; you now know what they are – now let’s put this all together and answer the how and when! You will want to make sure you combine your source of carbohydrates with some sort of lean protein and/or some healthy fat. Depending on when your workout is, you could be eating a meal or pre-workout snack. Whichever it is, make sure you include carbohydrates into the equation!
The farther away from the workout, you may include a larger amount of lean protein and healthy fats to slow digestion down, this may be more of a meal. The closer you are to the workout, try to consume something that is a good source of carbohydrates as opposed to protein or fat. For all meals and snacks, try and make sure you are eating foods you know you digest well! Stomach cramps and gas are not fun while you’re working up a sweat, or any time for that matter!
Some Examples of Pre-Workout Snacks
- That’s it. Fruit Bar + cheese stick
- That’s it. Fruit Bar + dried beans
- Rice cake + peanut butter powder + Fruit Bar
- Whole grain toast or wrap + nut butter + ½ banana
- Yogurt + That’s it. Fruit Bar cut up
- Applesauce + dried beans
- Dried beans + popcorn
Last but certainly not least, it is very important that I mention the importance of hydration in this equation. Water is the other main player before, during, and after the workout. Never forget it! Now that you have all these tips, find what you like and what portions that work best for you. Be sure to watch the way you feel throughout the process. In no time you will see your fitness regime improve as you fuel that tank!
Jenna Werner is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a passion for health and wellness. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences and Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management from The Pennsylvania State University. Jenna has experience working across the nutrition field in multiple areas including clinical care settings, retail nutrition field, management, fitness/nutrition spaces, and the private practice space. For more information, check out her Instagram account @happystronghealthy.rd and her blog: www.happystronghealthyrd.com.