Getting the right combination of food and nutrition before heading to the gym can mean the difference between a good session and a wasted journey. Below you’ll see our top five foods to eat before heading to the gym.
When to eat
It’s important to know when you should eat as you don’t want to be heading to the gym with a full stomach. You will need foods that provide you with energy, but your body needs time to get that energy from the foods your provide it. Typically it is very simple to know when to eat – the bigger the meal, the longer your body will need to digest it. Following this rule should make it easy to decide when you should eat and how much. Normally you should give yourself around an hour for most foods, but increase depending on the size of your meal.
Bananas are great to have as a pre-workout and will provide you the necessary energy (in the form of carbohydrates) that you’ll need to keep your workout going. Bananas are easily and quickly digested so you can have them quite close to your gym session, typically about half an hour before hand is ideal and they aren’t going to weigh heavy on your stomach. Bananas are also a fantastic source of potassium - this is a necessary nutrient for muscle function and is easily lost through sweat. Replacing the lost potassium will keep your muscles going that little bit longer!
The nature of bananas also means they can accompany many other meals as well and work alongside plenty of other snacks or foods. Having some wholemeal or grain as well as bananas can provide you with more complex slow burning carbs in addition to the more fast acting carbs from the banana. All in all your diet should definitely contain this awesome source of energy!
Oats are a really great food to eat for the gym – they are full of slow releasing energy which will help keep you going throughout your session. For this reason oats are fantastic thing to have if you typically do longer workouts. Oats themselves are also packed full of fibre to help with your body’s digestion. Like bananas, oats are also a great source of potassium and Vitamin B12 which is needed for various brain and nervous system functions.
Oats can come in a variety of forms – you can get bigger grains mixed in with cereals or flapjack cakes or you can have them more as a powder such as porridge oats. If you do get the powdered form you can then easily mix it in with other foods too such as cake mix or protein shakes.
Yoghurt can be a great food to have before a workout as it is nice and light but also a great source of protein. You can easily find Greek Yoghurt or even specialist protein yoghurts that are fantastic for anyone looking to up their protein intake. Being a light food, you can generally have Yoghurt quite close to your gym session time and you can easily add in other foods like fruit and grains.
Smoothies make a great pre-workout as they can contain tons of flavour and nutrition but in an easily digestible format. Breaking down fruit and blending with water or milk saves your body half the job of digestion so that you can more easily get the energy and nutrients you need. Smoothies can be anything really, so you simply need to get yourself a blender or smoothie maker and decide what flavours you like. Personally I also add in a small teaspoon of powdered coffee just for a little caffeine hit to help with a session.
5. Pre-workout shake
It might be a bit of a cheat, but a pre-workout shake can be made up easily wherever you are and in just a few minutes. There are plenty of companies that make these kinds of shakes and you will often find them in health food or supplement stores. Typically they’ll be sold by the kilo and will come in a large tub or packet and you just take a scoop full at a time. You can also get a bit creative and mix these powders in with other foods too – maybe pour a scoop in some oatmeal or porridge to add flavour as well as extra nutrients!
Food to avoid
As you’ve seen above you can be very flexible with your pre workout food – however there are certain foods to try and avoid. As with most dietary advice you should always try and avoid junk food as these will be burned through quickly and provide no lasting nutritional benefit. You’ll also want to avoid anything that will give you a quick sugar rush – sweets, chocolate bars or similar will give you a nice boost but you may find yourself crashing within 20-30mins of your workout.