Ever struggled through a workout, feeling weak, depleted and ready to give up after only a few minutes? If you’ve been there, done that, you may have made the one fitness mistake that’s easiest to avoid.
There’s a theory out there that skipping food before you exercise helps burn more fat. But, being professional triathletes with rigorous training regimens, we find it essential to eat before training in order to maximize our potential. At times, I have made the mistake of not eating and felt a dip in energy, even getting light-headed. No matter who you are, physical activity requires ample glucose stores (glucose = energy). Without a well-fueled, well-hydrated body, your muscles simply won’t function at their best.
What and how much you eat before exercising varies from person to person, but use these tips as a general guideline:
Tip #1: Don’t exercise on a full stomach, as it can lead to bloating, nausea or cramping. You can avoid any belly aching by allowing your food to fully digest before your workout. This may take 10 minutes to an hour, depending on your body, what you ate and how much.
Tip #2: Reach for easily digested foods. You don’t need Thanksgiving dinner before a workout, no matter how long or intense it may be. A simple, 200- to 300-calorie snack is enough fuel to fire your muscles and sustain you through most training routines. As we’ve talked about before, you may need more food and/or electrolytes if you’ll be exercising for more than an hour.
The best way to find out which foods suit you is to experiment and keep notes on what you ate and how you felt during the workout.
These are our go-to snacks before a training session, because they digest quickly:
- Gluten-free toast with almond butter
- Banana with almond butter
- Hot rice cereal with berries sprinkled on top
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time Iron distance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at email@example.com. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.