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Glow's avatar

Okay, what to eat BEFORE a work out... and does it matter?

Asked by Glow (1352 points ) September 4th, 2009

I asked a question about what to eat after a work out, and after some research as well, I now know what to eat after a work out… but I am still confused as to what to eat BEFORE it, and whether what I eat will matter or affect my work out. I’m not working out to lose weight, TOO much. I am 130 5’4”, so I’m not exactly overweight. But, I don’t want to gain weight, and I do want to get fit. I have lost 20 pounds by going on an empty stomach with plenty of water, but now it’s getting harder to control the hunger pains in the morning and I eat something, then I worry about whether this will affect the work out or not.

For example, I had some cereal and milk this morning. That’s probably some where around 300–400 calories and the cereal had 9 grams of fat, which shocked me… Now I’m feeling like I shouldn’t even bothering running and I should go tomorrow with a much less fattening meal, like yogurt or a banana. This happens often ):

I would love some specific answers, like what specific foods should I avoid and which should I take?

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15 Answers

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

First, I would need to know more about what kind of workout you’re going to do. I do high performance cycling (HR > 135). For that, I like to eat a light meal consisting mainly of complex carbs before a workout. Pasta salad is my favorite thing to eat before and during a ride – if I’m going to ride more than 40 miles, I need to eat during. If I’m planning a long ride, 100 miles or more, I like to carbo load the night before.

Avoid foods that are high in protein, like meat, eggs, and fish, before a workout. It’s harder for your body to metabolize these foods, and you generate more urea as you process them. Hard on the kidneys when you’re working out at the same time, although you DO want to eat these foods after your workout to provide protein to build muscle. But eating carbs after you workout will replenish muscle glycogen, aiding in recovery.

Drink lots of water. I can’t overemphasize this. If you like sports drinks like Gatorade, dilute them with water to cut the sugar. They have a lot of it.

All supplements are do-do. Eat a balanced diet, and you’ll do fine.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Here’s what Spark People have to say. Me? I have enough stored that I don’t eat before I work out, but I most often work out within 45 minutes of getting up, so YMMV. Some people must eat before working out, some people get an upset stomach if they eat beforehand. I’m in the latter camp.

Glow's avatar

I mostly do running, and occasionally ill weight train.

I know about the water though… had to learn that the hard way D:

Mostly though, I just wonder as to how the food you eat before the work out/run will affect your goals. Will it make it harder to lose weight, harder to run, etc? I have actually heard of some people who gain weight even though they are doing cardio exercises becauses they over eat O_o

nikipedia's avatar

Whoa, back up!

I have lost 20 pounds by going on an empty stomach with plenty of water, but now it’s getting harder to control the hunger pains in the morning and I eat something, then I worry about whether this will affect the work out or not.

How long are you going on an empty stomach with plenty of water? Are you sure you’re going about this in a healthy way?

To answer your question, I know people who don’t eat anything before a workout and do just fine. I find that I prefer to do it on an empty stomach, although a piece of fruit beforehand usually gives me noticeably more energy.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@Glow , it’s hard to find that balance. There are various tables on line that you can consult to determine about how many calories you’re burning during a workout.

Exercise elevates your metabolism for several hours afterwards, so you have some residual benefits from that. Eating too much is probably better than eating too little, because your muscles start digesting themselves if you don’t supply enough fuel.

Glow's avatar

@nikipedia This was actually about a year ago, and did about 30 minutes 3 days a week. Within 3 months, I went from 147 to 125, and now I’m 130 :P After the run though, I ate a salad. I was doing this indoors though and doing okay, but once I got outdoors I had problems, and just recently I realized I need even MORE water than what I was originally doing, so I’m taking more now.

But don’t worry, its not like I’m refusing to eat! Haha. I just want to be more knowledgeable on how I should be eating, since I’m not, and thus I don’t want to be eating the wrong foods and feeling like my work outs were fruitless (no pun intended).

nayeight's avatar

Yogurt or a banana for breakfast? I would be no good with that. Give me scrambled eggs with cheese, grits with butter, bacon and/or sausage, and a piece of toast or a tasty biscuit. Not everyday but at least once or twice a week. I could not even get out of bed knowing all I was going to eat for breakfast was a banana. I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and starving. Sheesh!

Glow's avatar

@nayeight the yogurt and banana is a suggestion of what one could eat before a run… not just for breakfast… I can’t eat all you mentioned before a run, that would be suicide ):

Id rather be fit and happy than fat and “happy”

Judi's avatar

Eating to much is not an excuse to “not even bother” with exercise! It’s a reason to exercise more! It might be a bit more uncomfortable to work out if you have over eaten, but it makes no since to exercise less because you consumed more calories. If you consumed more calories you need to exercise more to off set it.
That being said. at 130 lbs (I’m assuming you’re female) You can eat a little less that 1500 calories a day to maintain your weight if you don’t exercise. Any extra exercise you do is buying extra calories you can eat.
I suggest choosing the high volume low calorie foods (like fruits and vegetables and whole grains) for the majority of your diet. Use fats and proteins in moderation, and avoid processed foods all together.

fenugreek's avatar

In my experience, I’ve found eating before a workout boosts my energy—if I choose the right foods.
Selecting foods high in vitamins, minerals and proteins will actually boost your metabolism if consumed right before the day’s workout. No need to worry about the excess calories; food in the process of being digested is easier to ‘work off’ than calories already digested. Plus, the added energy will up your performance, let you work harder, prevent you from overeating after the workout, and keep you energized for the rest of the day. Raw foods are always a good bet, like reasonable portions of carrots, banana, apple, nuts, and whole grains like cereal!
Having said that, keep your pre-workout intake at SNACK status. You already know overeating will hurt your stomach and make you feel heavy and sluggish.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

I like wheat grass

esspressoman's avatar

Ive ate just some oatmeal or fiber foods about an hour pre-workout. Durring workout just water and after workout it depends on if i did cardio or weights (light pasta if cadio, chicken or turkey sandwich if weights) Foods are different for everybody though, I recommend you simplify whatever you decide to eat and you’ll have better results.

Brahmaviharas's avatar

A lot of people are making suggestions based on what they like, or what they have read somewhere, which I suppose is fair enough. However, I’m going to suggest something novel—find out by experimentation. Try this and try that, keep a journal, and find out for bloody sure what works for you. If a pre-workout glass of Pepsi works great for you, stick with it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There is such a thing as paralysis by analysis with fitness—especially with online forums, etc. And 90% of what you read is crap. So test things out for yourself. Experiment. Establish a baseline workout and diet and stick with it for a while, monitoring strength and bodyweight measurements. Then make one change and see how that effects things. (The main variables are diet and exercise frequency/intensity.)

Please don’t read this as a “go find out for yourself because I’m too lazy to answer” reply. See it as a “you will never sift through all the conflicting information without personal experimentation” reply.

Glow's avatar

@Brahmaviharas – oh, I was actually considering that! It’s actually very difficult because then other factors come into play, not just food. Factors such as how much rest I got that night, whether or not my body has fully recovered from the last work out, how long ago was the last work out, etc. The day I wrote this question, I went running anyway, and I found myself to be very physically tired, especially in the legs, but my stomach was fine except for some gas (I had some cereal and milk that day). It was 4 hours after eating though.

Anyway, your advice isn’t bad, its just that it will take a while of trial and error, and that might be a long while before I figure out what really works for me. I’m mostly afraid of making a really bad mistake, since I have heard some women do gain weight from eating the wrong things and over eating while exercising.

SeventhSense's avatar

Great question. I think that working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning like you found is one of the best ways to stimulate your metabolism. Hell it works for the military and has for ages. But at one point if you lose sufficient weight and shrink those fat cells your body will tell you that it needs energy as yours is apparently doing. Don’t ignore it or it may just slow down your metabolism and start storing fat again. For some exercises such as strength training it’s key to have the energy. I have found that for most days oatmeal with some mixed fruit such as berries and maybe a little bit of banana one half hour before I work out is excellent and readily available while not weighing me down. Sometimes I will add a little protein. Without the fuel though you’ll find some intense exercises can not be sustained and your workout will be counterproductive. I would avoid the milk though.

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