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Foods to Avoid Prior to Exercise

author image Kathryn Vera
Kathryn Vera holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, as well as licensure as a Registered Dietitian. Currently, she works as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation, where she provides care to patients living with chronic heart disease.
Foods to Avoid Prior to Exercise
Three fried corn dogs with ketchup and mustard. Photo Credit: IgorDutina/iStock/Getty Images

Our bodies depend on a combination of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to function at its best throughout the day. This reliance on food is even more critical during exercise, as your muscles use the energy produced by the body to perform at a peak level. Choosing the right pre-meal snack can often make the difference between an effective workout and a lackluster one. To avoid a mediocre workout and feelings of bloating and gastrointestinal distress, avoid foods that are fried, spicy, and high in fiber or refined sugars.

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Fried Foods

According to U.S. News and World Report, fried foods such as french fries, and onion rings are some of the worst foods that you can put into your body prior to a workout. Fried foods can not only lead to bloating, but are a much less efficient form of energy than carb- and protein-rich options. These foods can also be high in salt, leading to significant dehydration during endurance bouts of exercise. For best results, save fried foods for a post-workout treat.

High-Fiber Foods

Broccoli, lettuce and other high-fiber foods are also a no-no when it comes to a pre-workout meal. While these foods do contain high amounts of healthy carbohydrates, they are also rich in fiber, which can cause significant amounts of gastrointestinal distress during an exercise session. The risks posed by high-fiber foods are highest during aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or biking, as foods moves through the GI track at a swifter pace. In addition to vegetables and fruit, whole grains and nuts can also contain high amounts of fiber, and should be avoided prior to exercise.

Spicy Foods

"Health" reports that spicy foods should also be avoided when it comes to choosing pre-exercise snacks. High in capsaicin, spicy foods often lead to feelings of heartburn and indigestion -- making the continuation of exercise quite difficult, if not impossible. While naturally spicy foods such as peppers may be most likely to cause heartburn and indigestion, some additives found in packaged foods may also be to blame. Read the labels of packaged foods for ingredients that contain chili powder, red pepper flakes and other spicy flavorings.

Refined Sugar

Finally, refined sugars should never be eaten before a workout. While refined sugars can provide a quick burst of energy, they burn off quickly, leading to feelings of fatigue. Instead of refined sugar, consider a food containing healthy carbohydrates, such as a banana. This food provides the body with the energy it needs to make it through a long or challenging workout, without the subsequent drop in blood sugar levels.

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