By: Kristin Knight
What you eat or don’t eat before going to the gym can make or break your workout. It’s important to eat foods that will fuel your body, but to eat just the right amount so you don’t feel sluggish.
Carbohydrates are good to eat before your workout because they give you plenty of energy. Pairing carbs with proteins and healthy fats help the meal stay with you longer, meaning you stay fueled. What you eat is just as important as when you eat. If you’re eating a small meal or snack, Mayo Clinic recommends doing so 1 to 3 hours before your workout, whereas, if you’re having a larger meal, they recommend waiting 3 to 4 hours before working out.
So what should you eat in the Pit before working out?
If you’re looking for a lighter meal, try having a piece of toast with sun butter, a nut-free alternative made of sunflower seeds. This incorporates healthy fats and carbs without weighing you down. Hard-boiled eggs are a good option as well; they aren’t as greasy as an omelet, or as questionable as the scrambled eggs, but are still a great source of protein. If you want something that stays with you a bit longer, try a bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of sun butter, a scoop of berries from the yogurt station, and a dash of cinnamon. Diary doesn’t sit well with most people before a workout, but everyone’s different, so if it works for you, a cup of yogurt and fruit is a good option as well.
Pro tip: bananas are full of potassium which means they’re great at fighting off cramps. Try adding slices on top of toast, oatmeal, yogurt, or take one with you to eat just before the gym.
Lunch / Dinner
Despite how much you’re craving the pasta station, it’s probably not the best option before a workout. Try loading up on veggies and a serving of protein. Thankfully, the salad bar has improved a lot over the past few years. Rather than just carrots and croutons, try picking toppings that are more nourishing like chickpeas or edamame for a plant based protein, sweet potatoes for lots of vitamins, and nuts or seeds for a healthy fat and extra protein. You can get all the protein you need from the hearty plants at the salad bar, but adding a grilled chicken breast to your salad is a healthy option as well. I always check out the hot food stations to see if there’s any cooked veggies to go with my meal.
Don’t be afraid to try something new! The vegan station is better than you’d think, plus the Pit is WAY less boring if you don’t eat the same thing every single day. Remember, everyone’s body is different. Although there are essential aspects to a pre-gym meal, like proteins, carbs, and fats, different foods will settle better with different people, so try new things and make sure you give yourself enough time to digest before hitting the treadmill.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Drinking enough water is an essential part of a good workout too, however, you don’t want your stomach jiggling with water during cardio. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 2 to 3 cups of water during the 2 to 3 hours before you workout, about half a cup every 15 minutes during your workout, and plenty of water after! Water is one of the best ways to replace lost fluids, but if you had a particularly strenuous workout, drink a sports drink like Gatorade, or water with plenty of citrus to help restore your electrolytes.
Make sure to eat a healthy meal after working out too! It can be tempting to scarfe down any food in sight after a tough workout, but a healthy meal of proteins, carbs, and fats will help your muscles recover from all their hard work.