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Foods to Eat Before Lifting Weights

author image Kim Nunley
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
Foods to Eat Before Lifting Weights
Weight lifting. Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images

While weight lifting provides the stimulus that elicits gains in muscle strength and size, the foods you eat are what fuel those developments. If you’re aggressive with your workouts, but don’t consume the right foods, you’ll significantly limit your size and strength gains. Taking in the right foods before you hit the weight room can ensure that your body is equipped with the fuel it needs for a quality workout.

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Quality Preworkout Meal

Eat protein before a workout.
Eat protein before a workout. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images

When you’re lifting weights, your body will be utilizing primarily carbohydrates as fuel; protein facilitates recovery and the muscle-building process. As a result, Northern Arizona University Athletics recommends consuming a small meal consisting of low-glycemic carbohydrates and a quality protein before your workouts. Carbohydrates that are low glycemic provide you with a steady supply of energy because they take longer to be digested, which is ideal before your workouts.

Examples of Foods

Eat nuts before a workout.
Eat nuts before a workout. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Carbohydrates that are low glycemic include nuts, beans, pasta, fruits, brown rice, sweet potatoes, all-bran grains and vegetables. An example of a quality preworkout meal is a bowl of rolled oats with a scoop of whey protein and some peanut butter, milk and sliced banana. Dr. Kati Mora of Fitness Magazine recommends apple wedges, which provide the low-glycemic carbohydrates, with almond butter, which offers up protein.

Impact of Timing

Eat a banana before a workout.
Eat a banana before a workout. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

You don’t want to take in your meals too closely to when you start your weight training workout. Try to get in your meal around 60 to 90 minutes before you step into the gym. Eating too closely to when you work out can cause abdominal pains from gastrointestinal distress. If you lift weights first thing in the morning, eat a banana and whole wheat bread at least 30 minutes before you begin. Allow three hours before working out after you’ve taken in a full meal.

Foods to Avoid

Avoid foods like corn cereal.
Avoid foods like corn cereal. Photo Credit: schenkArt/iStock/Getty Images

Consuming high-glycemic carbohydrates before lifting can cause you to become lethargic in the middle of your workout. Avoid glucose, sucrose and maltose sugars; honey, russet potatoes, white breads, instant oatmeal, flaked cereals and corn chips because they are quickly absorbed and will leave you hanging when it’s time to push through your workout. If you consume fats and fibers, which take longer to break down, do so at least three hours before working out so that your body can move the food out of your stomach and start to digest it.

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