Have you heard the expression, “You are what you eat?” No matter what exercises you do or how often, what you eat is very important to your health and appearance. Moreover, sometimes the things you eat can even have a direct effect on how your workout goes. According to Jim White, R.D., “Putting the wrong things in your tank before you exercise can leave you lethargic, crash your system or cause wicked cramps.” Let’s talk about the foods you shouldn’t eat before a workout.
1. Fast Food
Meals that are high in fat, sugar and salt—like fast food—are generally not great for you. But did you know they make even worse pre-workout foods? All of the fat in your typical hamburger takes a long time to digest, and it can make it really hard to get a good workout in. Digestion takes blood, and so does exercise, which means that your muscles and your gut will essentially be playing tug of war for your blood. And in a contest like that, no one will come out the winner.
If you feel like you absolutely need your fast food fix on a workout day, try waiting until after you work out. After an hour at the gym, you may find yourself craving healthier food. If not, some people believe that fast food is a viable way of replenishing your glycogen stores. At least then it won’t be sitting in your gut the whole time you’re trying to lift.
Although fiber has a lot of health benefits, there’s a time and place for it, and that time may not be right before you go work out. In addition to helping your heart, possibly helping prevent cancer and helping you lose weight, large amounts of fiber can also lead to gas and bloating, which can definitely put a damper on your workout. Because of this, fiber deserves a place on the list of foods you should avoid before your workout. According to clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, you want to “limit the amount of fiber you take in 2 hours before and after exercising.” Outside of that window, though, increased fiber consumption is great for you.
While there are some foods you shouldn’t eat before a workout, it is important that you eat something before you hit the gym. If you work out without eating anything, you’ll feel more tired and your muscles will grow weaker faster. If you have even something light to eat, it will help you have the oomph to exercise and really give it your all.
4. New Foods
Trying new things is great, and eating a variety of things is a great way to promote a healthy diet. However, just before a big game is probably not the best time to try something really out of the ordinary, simply because you don’t know how your body will react to it. The best pre-workout foods are things that are nutritious and familiar, so you know that you won’t suddenly find out you’re allergic, or that it gives you terrible gas.
5. High Sodium Foods
Salty foods can be quite tasty, but they can sometimes disrupt the fluid balance in your body. To exercise at your best, you need the right balance. This means you want to avoid things like fries and chips, of course, but you may also want to rethink nuts just before your workout. While nuts have a lot of health benefits, they’re often salted. Because of this, they may make better post-workout than pre-workout foods.
6. Spicy Food
While spicy food is great at other times of the day, eating it just before your workout may not be particularly wise. If eaten just before exercising, spicy food may be more likely to cause heartburn. Other possible culprits of exercise-triggered heartburn include acidic foods like tomato sauce, orange juice, coffee, alcohol, chocolate and soda.
7. Refined Sugar
Sugar is another one of the foods you should avoid before your workout. Although it might seem that a candy bar would give you the boost of energy you’d need to get through your workout, it actually will most likely lead to burnout. While sugar does give a quick energy surge, it doesn’t last long, and you’ll probably end up feeling sluggish long before your workout is over.
So What Should You Eat Before a Workout?
Try to make sure your pre-workout snack is low in fat and fiber, includes liquids, is relatively familiar, and contains moderate amounts of protein and carbohydrates. This will help give you what you need to get through your workout without weighing you down too much.