We all know that nutrition plays an essential role in your ability to train hard, recover quickly, and get results. It should come as no surprise, then, that what you eat immediately before (and even during) your workout can have a profound impact on your performance, for better or worse.
Fuel your body with the right amount of the right foods and you can have a PR-shattering training session. Fill up on the wrong foods, and not only could you have a poor workout, you might also get nauseated and expel those foods all over the gym floor.
With that in mind, here are the top 9 foods to avoid before a workout.
Something to keep in mind when reading this list is that everyone’s body is different. As such, you may respond more or less favorably to the foods on this list. If a particular food on this list doesn’t bother you and allows you to train hard, then keep eating it. The best judge of what food works best for your body is you!
Now, without further adieu…
Remember that old childhood favorite “beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat…”
Well, there’s a lot of truth in that age-old rhyme.
Now, this isn’t meant to say that beans can’t or shouldn’t have a place in an athlete’s diet. Quite the opposite, in fact, if you can digest them. Beans are loaded with fiber plus all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and other assorted micronutrients. They’re a great source of complex carbohydrates and plant-based protein that can support muscle recovery and steady energy levels.
But, consuming a heaping helping of them shortly before your workout can lead to excess flatulence, GI distress, and an all-together “heavy” feeling that can impair performance.
#2 Greasy Food
Greasy foods like hot dogs, Chinese take-out, fries, and pizza are delicious, but they’re also packed with calories and fat. The more calories and higher fat content a meal has, the longer it takes to digest, which means that if you consume these types of food close to training, you may be in store for cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
Sure, alcohol can help take the edge off, and you might even think you perform better when you’ve had a drink or two. But, let’s be honest, alcohol serves no benefit to your workouts. It can dehydrate you, impair your ability to generate force, and hinder your ability to focus. Too much alcohol consumption can also increase cortisol levels, reduce protein synthesis, and impair recovery.
If you’re looking for something to sip on before training, consider mixing up a serving of pre workout or amino acids, and save the alcohol (if you are drinking it) for after the workout is over (preferably several hours after the workout is over so as not interfere with the beneficial effects of training).
#4 Carbonated Drinks
Carbonated drinks (soda, energy drinks, etc.) contain tiny gas bubbles that can fill you up. Consuming too much of them before your workout can leave you feeling stuffed and bloated -- not exactly the best way to feel before heading to the gym.
#5 Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc. are regarded as some of the most nutritious vegetables available. They’re rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
The reason for this is that cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of fiber (which slows down digestion) as well as raffinose, a type of complex carbohydrate that leads to gas production.
#6 Spicy Food
Spicy food can be delicious, and there’s also some evidence to indicate that consuming chile peppers (or more specifically capsaicin) can increase energy expenditure, reduce calorie intake and support weight loss.
However, spicy foods can also cause some serious indigestion and heartburn, making it very difficult to push to your max during training.
#7 Baked Goods & Desserts
Ice cream, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, and scones are high in fats and calories, which can leave you feeling sluggish and unsettled. Not to mention that this type of fare isn’t the most health-supporting.
“Junk” foods like these can have a place in a well-rounded diet, they just may not be the most optimal choice for a pre workout meal.
Steak (red meat) is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, providing high-quality protein along with lots of essential vitamins and minerals.
However, it also takes a long time to digest, making it less than ideal to consume right before a workout.
Steak can be included in your post workout meal (or any other time of day), but it’s slow digestion makes it a suboptimal choice for pre workout protein.
#9 Fruit Juice
On the surface, fruit juice would seem like a viable option as a pre workout drink. It’s full of sugar (fructose) and contains really no fiber to slow down digestion.
However, the fructose in fruit juice doesn’t digest as quickly or as easily as other carbohydrate sources (such as Cluster Dextrin or Carb10, which are included in Tri-Carb). Consuming high amounts of fructose can cause GI irritation, especially for individuals with IBS.
Certain juices, such as orange juice, grape juice, or tart cherry juice, can promote recovery as well as supply beneficial antioxidants, but they are best saved for the post-workout meal to refuel, rehydrate, and replenish.
What Should I Eat Before a Workout?
What you should eat before a workout will vary to some degree depending on how long you’ll be working out, the intensity of your training session, how long it’s been since you last ate, and whether you like to train fasted or not.
In general, the closer that you are eating to your workout, the smaller and faster-digesting you want that meal to be. For example, if you’re working out within 30-60 minutes, a great pre workout meal is a scoop of whey protein and a scoop of Tri-Carb. This provides a perfect combination of easy-digesting protein and carbohydrates to fuel your muscles during training.
If you’re eating about 90-120 minutes before training, you can have a bit larger meal as well as include some slower-digesting carbohydrates. An example would be a serving of oatmeal with berries and a scoop of protein or a bowl of Greek Yogurt with sliced almonds and fresh berries.
Remember that nutrition is highly individual. The foods and pointers outlined above are suggestions; they’re not rules set in stone. Process the information, mull it over, and see if the suggestions discussed above can enhance your training, recovery, and results during your transformation challenge.