Eating the right foods after a workout is essential for recovery. But pre-workout snacks can be just as important. They can give us an extra energy boost to increase endurance during a tough exercise session. The key, says personal trainer Allyn Blind, is to keep the snack very simple and eat it at least one hour before you hit the gym. Read on for the foods Blind and other experts recommended eating before various workouts.
A 20- to 30-Minute Run
There’s nothing more annoying than getting a stomach cramp during a run, thanks to a much-too-heavy breakfast. But running on an empty stomach isn’t always a good idea, either. For something simple that won’t weigh you down, try a banana or chia seeds an hour or so before your run. Research has shown that bananas are a great substitute for sports drinks, and we all know about the powerful energy benefits of chia seeds, thanks to Christopher McDougall’s mention of them in Born to Run.
Indoor Cycling Class
In one indoor cycling session, a person can burn 500 calories or more. Grant Hill, an instructor at Revolve Fit, says if your goal is to lose weight, choose a snack that is fatty and not high in sugar. However, if you tend to feel sick or dizzy while exercising on an empty stomach, you need something with more sugar, such as a banana. Or down a glass of Hill’s homemade sports drink: 1/3 orange juice, 2/3 water, and a dash of sea salt. You’ll get magnesium, potassium, and sodium in a natural way.
A Weight-Lifting Session
Blind says if you’re going to eat a full meal before a weight-training session, give yourself two to three hours to digest it. The meal should contain slow-digesting carbohydrates, such as whole-grain rice or sweet potatoes, as well as a source of lean protein like boneless chicken or fish. “This [combination] allows for insulin release and sustained energy throughout the entire workout,” she says. And don’t forget to hydrate before and after the weight-lifting session.
A Yoga Class
If you’re headed to a hot yoga or Bikram class, registered dietitian and active yogi Heather Calcote says it’s essential to hydrate well before a morning class and all day after. For fast-paced classes such as power or vinyasa yoga, treat your body as you would before a cardio session: “Take in simple, easy-to-digest carbohydrates and hydrate appropriately,” says Calcote, who says she often gets a stomach cramp if she eats before an early morning class. In that case, stick to liquids only, like a small cup of juice or herbal tea.
Boot camp classes involve a whole lot of pushups, weight training, and running. The key is to eat something very small and rich in fat so your meal doesn’t come back up, says personal trainer Hill. If you’re pressed for time, eat a few tablespoons of peanut or coconut butter, which Hill says will get the body’s fat metabolism going. Also try seeds or nuts such as pecans and walnuts.
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