The Exact Right Way To Fuel Up Pre-Workout

Let’s be honest, most of us consider it a personal victory just to make it to the gym, let alone properly fueling ahead of time, too. Wait, what does it mean to fuel properly anyway? After all, if you eat too much, then you’ll likely feel sluggish instead of energized, and if you eat too little, then you may not have the stamina to really put in work.  

Even though it takes energy to work out, it’s important that exercise doesn’t interfere with digestion, or vice versa. There’s nothing worse than trying to run with a full stomach (yikes!). To find that pre-workout sweet spot, experts suggest that you personalize your fueling to suit your unique needs. For instance, carbs may be better for a cardio-intensive sweat session, and protein may be better for weight training.

Make the most of your pre-workout routine with these tips:

Timing is everything. If you’ve eaten a full meal, you should wait 3 to 4 hours before exercising (or prepare for some serious discomfort). Keep this simple Fueling Timetable in mind:

  • If eating a large meal: Eat at least 3 to 4 hours before exercise.
  • If eating a small meal: Eat 2 to 3 hours before exercise.
  • If eating a snack: Eat 1 hour before exercise.
Balance is essential. Sure, balance is important when you’re exercising, but don’t forget its role in eating a healthy, nutritious meal. An ideal meal balances carbs, like whole grains or legumes, lean protein (chicken, tofu or fish), and ample non-starchy veggies and fruits.
But keep in mind, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to fill half of your plate with fresh produce, with a quarter of lean protein and whole grains or legumes—skip the pasta and potatoes.

Quality over quantity. Of course, it’s not always possible to perfectly time meals to exercise. In fact, more often than not, you’ll be coming off of 4+ hours since you’re last meal (especially if you’re an end-of-day exerciser).

So if that sounds like you, make sure to have a healthy, carb- and protein-filled snack on hand to tackle any of those hunger pangs. You’ll want to stick with simple carbs that provide a quick boost of energy, and some simple proteins.

Smart Snacking Examples:
  • Oatmeal with banana and walnuts
  • A granola bar with fresh fruit
  • Greek yogurt with granola
  • Small fruit smoothies.
  • Whole-grain bagel half with nut butter
  • Turkey or chicken breast with crackers
  • A hard-boiled egg with a piece of whole wheat toast
What about fueling during exercise?

If your workout is under 60 minutes, drinking water is most likely enough. And we do mean drinking ample water. You’ll want to drink at least 3 cups of water in the 3 hours before you start exercising, and don’t stop there. While you’re active, make sure to have at least 1 cup of water per 30 minutes of physical activity.

The bottom line.

The true measure is how you feel before, during and after exercise, so experiment with both food and timing to find the right balance to maximize energy and minimize digestive issues. For additional ideas and expert advice related to all things fitness, you can count on the experts at GMC’s Ellis Fitness & Performance Center. Whether you’re looking for a new exercise routine tailored to you, or you want an expert to evaluate your running and/or lifting form, GMC offers the services you want for all of your fitness needs.

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