Eating pre-workout is a delicate art. You don’t want to feel empty, you also don’t want to feel too full, and you’ve also got to account for digestion. Satisfying all of these requirements can be difficult, so we’ve compiled a list of stuff you probably shouldn’t eat before exercise. The tricky thing is that most of these foods are really good for you, just not right before you head out the door. And as with most things, finding stuff that sits well in your stomach pre-workout is trial and error.
Melissa Piercell, ND, says, “There are three main things that you shouldn’t have pre-run: protein, fibre and fat. These things take longer to digest and can actually impair your performance. For example, avoid a bean salad right before you head out. A bean salad can be the meal you have a few hours before your workout, but not the snack you have right before. You really want to pay attention to what you’re eating starting 90 minutes out from your run or workout.”
A fasted run is also an option if you’re working out first thing in the morning. Depending on the length of your run, you don’t necessarily need to take in calories. For anything under an hour, most people are fine on an empty stomach.
Vegetables are great, and they’re something you should work into your diet, but don’t mow down a kale salad right before your workout. Lots of greens can take longer for your system to process, so if you love having a salad for lunch but you’ve got an afternoon run, ensure ample digestion time. Certain vegetables like celery, brussels sprouts and broccoli are very difficult to digest, whereas other starchier vegetables like sweet potato or beets can go down a little easier.
Many of us have trouble digesting legumes, and chickpeas can be the worst culprit. While some hummus and pita or veggies is a great snack, again, make sure you leave ample digestion time. Too much fibre right before a run can mean trouble.
Chia seeds have been a buzz ingredient for several years. The small seeds are great for things like chia pudding, overnight oats and even jam. But these tiny foods can cause real trouble for a runner’s stomach. With a shocking amount of fibre, fat and protein, this superfood takes a minute to digest.
A lot of protein before a run can cause stomach upset as well. Try and keep protein low within an hour of working out, so skip the chicken breast and opt for some whole grain bread instead. Save the protein for post-workout, when your muscles need some help repairing.
This is controversial, because a banana and peanut butter is something that many runners swear by. But peanuts are a fatty legume, and while both delicious and good for you, they can wreak havoc on a runner’s stomach. Eat this snack around 90 minutes out, or save it for post-workout.
Some runners can handle dairy pre-run, but lots can’t. If diary isn’t your friend, then skip the cheese and yogurt within an hour of heading out the door. You can supplement yogurt with a dairy-free alternative like SO Delicious or Silk, which are both made from dairy alternatives.