Pre-Workout NutritionJan 17, 2022
Some people drink pre-workout drinks before a workout. Some people will go into a workout without eating. Some people snack before a workout. To figure out what the best pre-workout nutrition for you, we’ll have to take into consideration the time of day that you are exercising.
What should I eat before a workout?
What you eat depends on when you eat/workout.
If you are working out in the morning, then you don’t necessarily need to eat anything. Eating immediately before working out can upset your stomach. If you are exercising later in the morning or feel like you need to get something in your stomach before exercising, then go for something high in carbs so the body can digest it fast and utilize the energy. Examples include half of a banana, applesauce, and raisins.
If you are working out in the afternoon or evening, the recommendation is to eat a snack prior to exercise. If you are snacking 2 hours or more prior to the workout, then you can eat just about anything as the body will have time to metabolize and digest. That being said, focus on whole foods and don’t eat until stuffed. If you are snacking about 30-60 minutes before a workout, then you should choose your snack carefully. Limit the calories (about 100-200 calories is a good goal) and limit fats (i.e. peanut butter, avocado, coconut oils, butter spreads, etc.). High calorie and high fat foods can slow down your metabolism and cause gastrointestinal distress during the workout. Stick with fruit, yogurt, or protein shakes.
Everyone is different, so listen to your body and modify as needed.
Are energy drinks good for me?
It depends! Some are better than others as far as ingredients.
More importantly, why do you feel the need to drink an energy drink? Are you low on energy? If so, is that because you aren’t getting a good night’s rest? Is it because you are not eating enough quality foods during the day to support your energy? Drinking an energy drink is really just covering up those issues with a band-aid to get through the workout.
If you are looking to boost your performance, then caffeine has been shown to be effective before a workout. About 100 mg of caffeine is enough. The upper limit of “too much” is about 400 mg, although this varies depending on age, gender, and weight. One cup of coffee will give you about 100 mg of caffeine and should be enough.
Energy drinks tend to have many other ingredients (in addition to caffeine) that work as stimulants. These can really get your heart rate to go up. A small consequence is that you have difficulty managing your heart rate during a workout. A larger consequence and much more dramatic) is the possibility of a heart attack, which has happened in plenty of otherwise healthy athletes, young and old.
The bottom line is that you should figure out why you feel the need to drink an energy drink. If you feel like you need caffeine, then try drinking a cup of coffee instead.
Are protein bars good to eat before a workout?
Protein bars are good in a pinch, like if you are traveling a lot that day, didn’t have a lunch break, or are just on the go. They can supply you with some calories and are better than nothing. However, there are more bad ones out there than good ones. Pay close attention to how much sugar (shoot for under 10-12 g), protein (shoot for 15-20 g), and fat (shoot for under 8 g) are in the bar.
Some good options of protein bars include RXBAR, ONE, Quest, Vega, and Kirkland Signature.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT