Nutrition is so vital to your ability to build muscle, lose fat, and get results, that it can’t be stated often enough.
What you choose to eat (or not eat) not only impacts your daily energy intake but also how you perform and recover from your workouts.
Certain foods can help you push harder and last longer during your training while others can have you stopping early or (worse) doing your best imitation of Linda Blair from The Exorcist.
With that in mind, today, we highlight what foods should be avoided pre-workout.
What Foods to Avoid Pre-Workout
There’s no secret recipe to the “best” pre workout meal. It is highly individual.
Training environment, type of workout, how soon you’re eating before your workout, and personal preference can all play a role in what you decide to eat pre-workout.
Some individuals enjoy a big meal before a training session while others want something light and easy to digest. Still, others find they perform the best training fasted.
Generally speaking, the closer to your workout that you are eating the smaller and easier digesting you want it to be.
For instance, if you’re training within 30-60 minutes and want to consume a pre-workout meal, your best bet is something quick digesting and low in fat in fiber. A great option is a protein shake (using 1UP protein powder) and a banana (or a scoop of Tri-Carb). This provides sufficient amounts of protein and carbohydrates to fuel your mind and body during training while also staving off muscle breakdown.
If you’re eating 90-120 minutes before your workout, you can have something a little more substantial, such as a bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, a serving of berries, and some chopped walnuts.
If you’re eating 2+ hours before your workout you want something with “staying power.” A prime example of this is a 3-egg omelet with cheese, a cup of fruit, and whole wheat toast. Or a savory option could be a piece of grilled chicken or steak with a baked potato and steamed veggies or a side salad.
As you can see, the types of food ,as well as the quantity of those foods, can vary greatly depending on the circumstances.
An overarching rule though is to avoid foods to do not “agree” with you, meaning that your body does not tolerate/digest them well.
This includes foods that cause GI distress (e.g. bloating) as well as foods that make you feel heavy or sluggish.
Again, this will vary based on the individual, but there are certain foods that are more prone to lead to GI distress than others, such as:
- Alcohol -- it might be the “liquid courage” you want during a night on the town, but it will impair coordination and decision-making in the gym, not to mention adversely impacting blood sugar levels
- Fried foods -- laden with grease and refined carbs, fried foods leave you feeling incredibly heavy and can lead to massive GI upset if eaten too close to training
- Cruciferous veggies (kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)
Note: there’s nothing “bad” with cruciferous veggies but they take a while to digest and can lead to the production of lots of gas which can make you feel bloated. Save them for after the workout.
- Beans & legumes -- again, these foods are great for you, just not great for a pre-workout meal due to the high amount of fiber and other compounds that can lead to gassiness and bloating
- Carbonated beverages -- carbonated beverages are usually loaded with cheap sugars (which could lead to an energy crash in the middle of training) as well as carbonation, leading you to feel bloated and sluggish
- Spicy foods -- while they may help stimulate metabolism and thermogenesis, spicy foods may also cause heartburn
- Kombucha -- Loaded with probiotics, kombucha has gained popularity as a “healthy” beverage. However, many kombucha products sold are packed with egregious amounts of sugar, not to mention carbonation. It should also be mentioned that consuming a bolus dose of probiotics, for certain individuals, can also lead to GI discomfort and sprinting to the bathroom
Eating before a workout doesn’t have to be complicated.
Eat something that digests easily and avoid foods that don’t agree with you. What works for you may not work for your training partner and vice versa.
It may take some trial and error, and remember, there’s no “rule” that you have to eat before training. The concerns about losing muscle during a workout have been massively overblown over the years. The human body is incredibly adept at preservation (which includes muscle tissue so long as you consume enough protein each day).
One pre workout meal that seems to be very well tolerated is a scoop of protein powder and a banana. So if you’re not sure where to start, try that and see how you feel/perform.
For other recipe ideas or pre-workout meal suggestions, check out the 1UP Fitness App where you can interact with other like-minded individuals and get tips on how to fuel your body so that you get the best results possible, no matter if you're gaining, maintaining, or entering a transformation challenge!