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Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Increase Energy

author image Angel Lancaster
Angel Lancaster has been writing for publications since 2008. She writes about health, fitness, medical techniques and procedures and alternative medicine. She is a certified personal trainer and has experience in bodybuilding and personal nutrition. Her work appears on eHow and she has written a column for the "Lebanon Chamber of Commerce" newspaper. Lancaster attended Clayton College of Natural Medicine for naturopathy.
Foods to Eat Before a Workout to Increase Energy
Eating correctly before your work out will improve performance. Photo Credit workout image by john parli from Fotolia.com

Diet is the single most important element of developing energy for your workout. What you eat prepares your body to perform at its maximum during any type of exercise. Selecting the correct foods can increase your energy during your time working out. The optimum time to eat a meal is one to two hours before you start your workout. This amount of time allows your body to store the energy you will need to push your muscles to their limits.


While fruit is important in your diet and should be eaten every day, it is vital to consume before working out in the gym. Fruit serves two very important tasks in the body. First, it dilates the blood vessels so they can carry oxygen to the cells and removes waste products. The second purpose of eating fruit is to provide the body with a source of simple sugars that will fuel the body immediately.

Bananas and oranges are extremely well suited for this task. Both contain sugars that will go to work rapidly in the body to produce energy. Bananas possess both simple and complex carbohydrates that provide immediate energy, digest slower and continue to provide energy throughout your workout.

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Complex Carbohydrates

The best sources of long-term energy for your workout are foods that contain complex carbohydrates. In the body, complex carbohydrates metabolize at a much slower rate than simple carbohydrates like fruit juices, sodas and sweets. Complex carbohydrates fall into the food groups like whole grain breads, pastas and beans. Each of these types of foods provides your body with the fuel it needs to perform at your peak during the workout.

Make sure your pre-workout meal contains a large amount of these fuel sources. As they digest, your body will store glycogen in your muscles and fat tissue around your body. Glycogen is the main sustained source of energy during a workout for the body to metabolize. A combination of complex carbohydrates and protein will help build your body's store of glycogen. Once your workout begins, the energy used will come from the simple carbohydrates you have eaten that metabolize quickly. This gives you the quick burst of energy that is typical at the beginning of a workout. Upon exhaustion of this source of energy, the body begins to obtain its energy by metabolizing the stored glycogen in the body. The glycogen metabolizes slower giving you sustained energy throughout your workout. The final source of energy the body will use is protein, like your muscles. This is the state you don't want your body to reach because it will begin to draw its energy from the very muscles you are striving to build.


Protein is a mandatory component of your pre-workout meal. It is the major building block of new muscles developed in the gym. Protein has other important tasks to perform in the body during a workout. It helps maintain the proper nitrogen balance within the muscles and provides the essential building blocks for the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Consume protein throughout the day to keep your body supplied with not only fuel for energy but also with the nutrients required to repair and maintain our bodies. Providing a sufficient supply of protein will help to avoid hunger cravings and prevent the body from using your muscle to provide energy for the body.

The best sources of protein include fish, chicken and turkey, but all meats provide some amounts of protein. The most concentrated source of protein available is chicken and turkey. Not only the meat but also the eggs of these fowl provide more grams of protein per ounce than any other source of protein available. Other excellent sources of protein include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, legumes and nuts.


Changing your eating habits to provide sustained food intake is just as important as what you are eating. Your body continually requires energy to make it through the day. This energy comes from the foods that you eat. With the goal of consistently working out with abundant energy in mind, you must prepare for that all through the day. You body builds the glycogen on a constant basis and if there is little or no glycogen available to meet your body's energy needs it will begin to break down muscle to obtain the necessary energy. This process is the main reason you need to provide your body with good foods every two to three hours of the waking day.

Snacking is a very good habit to develop. This does not mean consuming sweets and unhealthy foods throughout the day, but it does mean to eat healthy foods like nuts, cheese, fruit or snacks that consist of complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Supplementing your diet between meals with snacks will keep your body running at an optimum and help it to prepare for your next appointment to work out.

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