What Should You Eat Before a Cardio Workout?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

It can be difficult to determine whether you should eat before working out. While some people think eating gives you more energy, others think it makes you bloated, causes digestion issues, and causes muscle cramps. Like always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

It all comes down to the fuel (and amount of it) that you choose to take in before your workout. Not only that but eating before cardio is highly individual. Let’s take a look at what the experts have to say.

It CAN be important to eat before an exercise, especially if you want to increase your time and intensity. Your performance will undoubtedly suffer if you don’t have enough protein and carbohydrates in your system (to actually fuel the activity), for instance, if you’re working out to be able to walk a marathon, combining walking with various resistance training exercises, or doing interval training to increase your speed.For the people who aren’t quite sure if they should eat before a workout, here are some simple rules to follow: if your workout is going to be longer than an hour, you should definitely opt for a pre-workout meal.

Another vital aspect you must consider is timing. If your workout is set during your lunch break, or another time where you would usually eat as part of your natural eating patterns, you’ll probably want to have a snack so your body can function optimally.

If you’re tackling aerobic exercise (hiking, biking, HIIT), when you eat is just as key as what you eat.

Fuel up: Consider a smoothie made with almond milk, banana, and berries as your pre-workout meal if you want it to be low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein, and heavy in carbohydrates. Take it between 60 and 90 minutes before working out: To give functioning muscles nourishment, the meal should be digested. The last thing you want to do is have a full stomach when you get on the treadmill. You don’t need to have another snack if your exercise session lasts less than one hour.

Uncertain of what to eat? Consider having a slice of whole-wheat bread with some fruit, like an apple, a small dish of oatmeal with raisins, a banana, or some yogurt. If you require protein to keep going throughout a lengthy workout, consider drinking milk with your snack or consuming a tiny tuna sandwich.

Recovering from your workout: Your body has a 20- to 30-minute “metabolic window” after working out, during which time your muscles absorb nutrients most effectively. During this time, it’s crucial to refuel so that your body doesn’t run out of energy. Leah Kaufman, RD, a nutritionist in New York City, suggests putting carbs and protein first because “a snack with this combination will help improve muscle repair and lessen pain.” Choose something small, like a cup of chocolate milk; a research indicated that cyclists reduced their ride duration by an average of six minutes when they drank low-fat chocolate milk rather than sports drinks and zero-calorie beverages after exercising.

The bottom line is, if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, it may be necessary to take in that additional fuel for your body. The longer the duration, and the higher the intensity of your exercise, the higher the likelihood that you’ll need to fuel your body. If you do decide to eat before a workout, make sure you’re including healthy options in your menu such as Greek yogurt, granola, bananas, a piece of toast with nut butter, small portions of oatmeal, and similar easy-to-digest foods that will lead you to the energy boost you need to adequately perform your work out.

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