Pre-workout meals seem to cause a lot of confusion in fitness enthusiasts. What to eat? When to eat it? How does that snack affect performance and progress towards fitness goals? Surely, eating a healthy food pre-workout will do us good, so let’s just make healthy choices and that will be fine. Well, it is not all that simple. Some healthy foods will actually do more harm than good for your body when consumed before a workout.
There is a number of very healthy foods that are digested and absorbed by the body in a manner that is just not optimal for a workout. Foods that are high in healthy fats, protein and fibre will not necessarily contribute to a good energy level during your workout. The best choice of snack or meal to have is one with fast-acting carbohydrates, such as an apple, low-sugar granola bar or a bowl of oats.
Below are some foods that it is best not to consume before workouts and the reasons why we should not eat them. Make sure that you choose the pre-workout snack/meal that is best for you, and will not affect your digestion in a negative manner.
Yoghurt: This food is high in protein and can be difficult to digest during a workout, which will make you feel tired and heavy, rather than energetic during your activity. In addition, dairy can cause bloating in some people, and doing physical activity after consuming it can multiply and worsen that effect. Therefore, it is best to keep your yoghurts for post-workout meals or eat them for breakfast with some fruit and home-made granola.
Eggs: Eggs are quite heavy to digest for most people. They contain a high amount of both fat and protein, but absolutely no carbohydrates. Carbs are the key source of energy for our workouts and not consuming them prior to will decrease your potential power output and leave you with no energy. The fats and protein will also sit heavy in your stomach, and make you tired. Eggs should rather be eaten with a post-workout meal to help muscles recover, as post-workout you will have an increased protein uptake and will be able to absorb the protein in a much more efficient manner.
Hummus: Another food that is high in fat, but also high in fibre from the beans that it is made of. A lot of people struggle with chickpeas and beans for their digestion, especially, if they are not used to them. Eating a snack like hummus can pose a challenge to your workout and cause discomfort and bloating during the session, which is definitely undesirable.
Avocado: This fruit is an amazing source of healthy fats, minerals and vitamins, but it is not so great to have before a workout. Again, fats are hard to digest and a high amount of energy is required for that. This means that rather than using energy for exercise, the body will be trying to digest the avocado. They are a perfectly healthy food to include in your diet, but just not prior to working out.
Rice Cakes: This food is low in nutrients, and does not have a great contribution to the diet. Rice cakes are low in calories and will not provide sufficient energy for the workout, despite the calories coming primarily from fast-acting carbohydrates. Commonly, rice cakes are flavoured with artificial flavourings, which will put additional stress on your body and may decrease performance.
The simple rule of pre-workout snacking is to avoid foods rich in protein and fats, and to aim to snack on some simple carbohydrates. This will supply you with energy for the workout and will not leave you feeling lethargic or make digestion uncomfortable.