In the fitness world, food is fuel. Getting the balance right of what food to each at which time of day is the key to optimising your workout performance. Correct nutrition can give your body a shorter recovery, more stamina and an overall better performance, but poor nutrition can have the adverse effect. Why is this? Well quite simply because eating before a workout forces your body to choose between processing the food or converting energy into performance, and the body will always process the food above anything else; you can’t stop digestion.
Not all foods are bad for you before a workout. In fact, some high energy foods can be useful to give you the energy to burn off; exactly what you need before a cardio session. But other foods can interfere with achieving your workout potential. So which foods should you try and avoid pre-workout?
The issue with eating yoghurt or dairy products before a workout is that the protein content means it takes longer to digest than easily absorbed foods or rapidly processed foods, so if you do want to eat dairy then be sure to eat it 2 hours before a workout so that your body is not still trying to process it. Dairy products can also give you cramps, abdominal discomfort and even diarrhoea, even if you eat dairy without a problem normally.
Avocados do have a lot of health benefits, but adding avocado to a meal before a workout is a mistake because of the high fat content, which means they are very hard to digest. The same is also true for olive oil and other fatty foods such as cheeseburgers – this type of food should almost certainly be avoided before a workout.
It’s probably quite obvious that scoffing a Mars bar before a workout is going to affect your stamina and performance. All the sugars in chocolate bars may give you an initial energy boost, but this is very short lived and the peak and trough in sugar levels will cause you to crash and play havoc with your stamina.
A great food for a healthy diet and weight loss, but not a great food for your pre-workout snack. The problem lies in the fact that they are packed full of fibre, and before a workout a heavy intake of fibre will lead to bloating and flatulence, so you need to avoid consuming these or any other high-fibre foods 2 hours before and after a workout.
Nuts are a great snack and are included in most nutrition programmes to get a good amount of healthy fats into your diet. However, before a workout nuts are not a great idea due to the salt content. This sodium content can effect the fluid balance that you need for an optimum workout and cause you to become dehydrated and increase the recovery period for your muscles afterwards.
While the foods above are ok to eat generally, to achieve a great workout performance and a healthy muscle recovery afterwards it is recommended that you don’t consume them within 2 hours either side of a workout. An idea pre-workout snack would be a small protein based snack with a good carbohydrate level that is eaten a few hours before. Don’t be tempted to take a protein shake with you either, as these are best consumed post-workout to assist in muscle recovery and repair.