Finding the right pre-workout snack – in the right amount – can be difficult. While a heavy meal will make you lethargic, an insufficient snack will not give you the energy you need to get through a tough session. What you decide to eat before a workout has a direct impact on your performance. And to make sure there is no outage halfway through, you need to refuel. We spoke to Manasa Rajan, Holistic Health Coach, Food R&D @EatFit, to help you decode the science behind pre-workout nutrition and the best snacks to eat before hitting the gym.
The impact of pre-workout snacks on your performance
According to Rajan, the timing and purpose of your workout matters when looking at pre-workout nutrition. “A morning workout can be on an empty stomach, especially if the goal is to lose weight. But if you are exercising at night, you shouldn’t be hungry. Blood sugar and energy levels are a huge consideration here, ”she says. In general, when an individual’s goal is performance – not weight loss – pre-workout snacks become a pre-requisite.
What happens when you don’t eat before a workout
As a personal member of the I-have-fainted-at-the-gym club, I’m not the biggest fan of fasting before a workout, especially if you’re going for a cardio-intensive routine. Exercising on an empty stomach can cause your body to deplete some important energy sources, leaving you with lower endurance and lower blood sugar. This is what causes feelings of dizziness or nausea. “The goal of training is to create optimal performance. When your body is in starvation mode or low on energy, it will not be able to produce the best performance during your workout, thus compromising the overall goal, ”says Rajan.
Nutritional Elements To Look For In A Pre-Workout Meal
Rajan recommends eating carbohydrates like dates, fruits, and oatmeal for energy before a workout. Apart from that, another important nutrient for a pre-workout snack is protein, which can be found in nuts and seeds. She also suggests adding a little fat and fiber to the mix. “Not too much, however. It shouldn’t be a big meal, as a heavy digestive load can affect your workout performance, ”she says.
Some people swear by the shots of coffee before going to the gym. It is true that consuming caffeine improves performance, but it can also have some side effects. “This is the most controversial choice because it has an impact on your heart rate, blood pressure, etc., to which some people may be more sensitive than others,” says Rajan.
The role of hydration before, during and after a workout
Drinking water is not only the key to a good workout, it is also necessary for recovery. “Reduced or compromised hydration, also known as hypo hydration, can reduce endurance performance at high intensity, as well as strength and power performance during workouts,” says Rajan. Hydration also impacts your energy, movement, mental clarity, agility, thermoregulation, while reducing the risk of injury. You should not only start your workout hydrated, you should also rehydrate during and after, as you will lose water through sweating.
5 expert-approved pre-workout snacks
We asked Rajan to prepare a pre-workout diet of 5 healthy, easy-to-prepare snacks you can eat before you exercise. Here’s what she recommends:
- Berry oatmeal – Cook oatmeal in water with frozen or dried berries and nuts. These two ingredients provide you with a good share of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, while being rich in fiber and protein.
- A banana with a spoonful of peanut butter – Bananas are probably the most popular pre-workout snack, due to their high fiber and potassium composition, as well as the general ease of eating one. When paired with a dollop of protein-rich peanut butter, this snack becomes an absolute winner.
- 3-4 dates with walnuts – Dates are a high source of energy because they contain natural sugars like fructose and glucose. Nuts also make your workout easier because they are high in good fats and antioxidants.
- Applesauce cinnamon with almonds – While it takes more effort than some of the other pre-workout snacks on this list, it’s well worth it. Cinnamon-baked stewed apples improve your metabolism and allow your body to burn fat faster. Almonds, on the other hand, enrich your body with protein, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
- Trail mix of raisins with sunflower seeds – Raisins are high in soluble fiber, while sunflower seeds provide you with protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats. You can either buy a pre-mixed pack containing these two products at the supermarket or make your own trail mix at home.
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