A pre-workout meal or snack has to strike a delicate balance. You want your body to be properly fueled for the effort you’ll need to expend during exercise, but you don’t want to take in too many calories if your ultimate goal is to lose weight. Rather than scarfing down whatever is handy, seek out the foods that will meet these goals -- and keep them stocked at your home and workplace for easy access.
Effective nutrition is a primary concern when you’re eating for health and weight loss. Because the body’s main source of fuel for energy expenditure is carbohydrates, it’s important to include them in any pre-workout snack or meal. Ideally, eat complex carbs because they’re slower to burn and can keep you fuller longer. Try whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice or oat-based granola. Pair those carbs with a source of lean protein, which can curb later hunger and help muscles perform at their best. Examples include nonfat yogurt, skim milk, nut butter, lean meat, eggs or low-fat cheese.
When weight loss is your goal, you also want to keep your total daily calories in check. Thus, a snack before exercise shouldn’t exceed 400 calories, according to a July 14, 2006, article on CNN.com titled "Get the Right Fuel for Your Workout." If you know that exercise tends to make you hungry and that you’ll have to refuel right after you work out, stick to just a light snack before you start your routine so you can have something larger later.
Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian who writes for NOLA.com, suggests that the best pre-workout meals and snacks are low-sugar smoothies, fresh fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese, sandwiches with lean meat, nut butter or cheese with crackers or bread, and packaged nutrition bars. The key is to choose something that both digests easily and is low in calories. Nancy Clark, author of the “Sports Nutrition Guidebook,” recommends bread, bagels or pasta. Because those foods tend to offer more calories, try limiting yourself to small servings only.
To get the best results from both your workout and your weight-loss program, coordinate the times you eat with the foods you choose. For example, MayoClinic.com recommends eating a small meal at least two or three hours before exercise and a snack at least one hour before, so that your body has adequate time to begin breaking down the food. A large meal sloshing around in your stomach doesn’t feel good when you’re working out, and it won’t help you focus on giving your best effort.
- MayoClinic.com; Eating and Exercise -- 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workouts; Dec.18, 2010
- NOLA.com: The Right Pre-Workout Snack Will Help Optimize Energy Levels; Molly Kimball; Jan. 14, 2011
- CNN.com; Get the Right Fuel for Your Workout; Maureen Callahan; July 14, 2006
- PittsfordCrew.org; Guidelines for Pre-Exercise Nourishment; Nancy Clark; 1997
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.