What to Eat Before Cardio

Fueling your body with the right food before a hard cardio session can improve your performance while you work out. Some people prefer to skip a meal before exercising, but you might find yourself hitting a wall sooner if you go that route.

Oatmeal is great before cardio. (Image: samael334/iStock/GettyImages)

Try out a few different types of meals, and see which one works best for you.

First Thing in the Morning

Your body burns calories and nutrients while you sleep. If you work out first thing in the morning, you'll need a bit of refreshment first. Eat a carb-loaded snack about 30 minutes before your workout. Between 75 and 100 percent of your snack should be composed of carbs. The snack probably won't give you that much energy to fuel your workout, but it will make the distracting hunger pangs says Mayo Clinic. If you plan on exercising for more than 40 minutes, add some (a very little) protein to your snack and give yourself at least an hour or even better, two hours to digest it recommends Heart.org.

Quick Snacks Before Workouts

If you just need a quick snack before a workout, eat a single piece of fruit such as a banana, orange or apple. You might also snack on carrot sticks or chug a glass of juice or a sports drink and plenty of water. If you're aiming for a long cardio session, add some yogurt, an egg, a slice of cheese or a small piece of meat — this protein will help power you through a longer workout.

Afternoon or Evening Workouts

If you'll be doing your cardio later in the day, make sure you eat a few hours beforehand. Schedule a snack that includes protein and carbohydrates about two to three hours before your cardio session. If you're an athlete, chances are you'll digest the food sooner, so wait about an hour and a half before working out.

Sample Pre-Workout Meal

Not sure what to eat? Try a slice of whole-wheat bread and a piece of fruit such as an apple or a small bowl of oatmeal topped with raisins or a banana or yogurt. If you need protein to sustain through a long workout, try a glass of milk with your snack or eat a small tuna sandwich. Avoid any food with fat says ACE Fitness, as it takes much longer than carbs to be absorbed into your bloodstream.

Timing Your Meals

Consider eating four or five small meals throughout the day instead of eating three larger meals. Eating less often means you're more likely to run out of energy before a workout. Continually replenishing your body with small meals means you'll always have enough energy to hop on the treadmill. When your body runs out of fuel between meals, your metabolism slows down — which means you're more likely to store fat.

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