Eating before exercising is important to prevent low-blood sugar, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded during and after your workout. Additionally, eating before you work up a sweat helps you maintain adequate energy stores in your body, especially early in the morning. Energy stores from the previous day may have been used up while you slept or if your last meal was an early one.
Eating Before Exercise
In a study published in the "Journal of Applied Physiology," investigators found that eating a meal 45 minutes before moderate-intensity exercise significantly enhances exercise capability. Eating before working out can increase your energy and allow you to work out with more intensity for longer periods of time. If eating very early in the day upsets your stomach, try a lighter option or a beverage that will raise your blood sugar instead, such as a glass of fruit juice or a low-fat yogurt.
What to Eat
In general, the American Dietetic Association, or ADA, recommends that you eat high-carbohydrate foods with moderate amounts of protein that can be easily digested. A pre-exercise snack containing between 100 and 400 calories can fuel your exercise without making you feel full or slow you down. If you are concerned about weight gain or are trying to lose weight, eat something on the light side of the calorie range, like a banana or a slice of toasted bread with a little peanut butter on top. However, if your main concern is performance, eat on the higher side of the calorie range. Examples of more energy-dense foods include a bowl of cereal, or a bagel with cream cheese and some fruit.
Pre-Workout Meal Examples
What you eat before working out will depend on how much time you have before starting physical activity and your personal preferences. If you prefer a cold breakfast, an example of a nutritious pre-workout meal could be ½ cup cereal with skim or low-fat milk, or a granola bar. You can also try low-fat yogurt with fruit. If you prefer a warm breakfast, try a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana slices or 2/3 cup of oatmeal with berries. Ideally, the ADA recommends that you eat two hours before exercising, however if you are running low on time or feel that you cannot eat large volumes of food in the morning, have a glass of orange juice or a glass of a sports drink with carbohydrates instead.
Drinking Before Exercise
Drinking enough fluid before exercise is just as important as eating before working out, especially first thing in the morning, as your body may be partially dehydrated from not having consumed any fluids throughout the night. If possible, drink at least between 6 and 8 ounces before heading to the gym, and make sure you continue to drink water throughout your workout. If your pre-workout meal is on the lighter side, choose a sports drink instead of water as your choice of beverage to support your energy needs.