A good workout, in which you perform at your best and stretch your body to its limits, depends on many things. One of the important factors — and one that is often overlooked — is the food you eat before you exercise. Consuming the right things can contribute greatly towards a great exercise session — so before your next workout, eat any of the following eight foods.
- Pasta. Popular with many top athletes, pasta is easy to digest because it has lots of carbohydrates. Healthy carbs move through the digestive system quickly, giving your body energy fast. The starchy carbohydrates found in pasta will both help you start off strong, and provide you stamina to persevere later. Since pasta is so rich in carbs, there’s no need to eat more than a small portion.
- Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has massive amounts of protein. While not particularly important to aerobic exercise, significant stores of protein are required for strength training, making Greek yogurt perfect for muscle-building exercises. Plus, Greek yogurt contains valuable minerals and nutrients like calcium.
- Cereal with milk. The ideal pre-exercise meal combines carbohydrates and protein together. Most cereals are rich in carbs, and milk has lots of protein. Milk has the added advantage of being a liquid, so it will help you stay hydrated while you exercise. Some research has even indicated that milk can promote muscle growth. For cereal, choose brands that are low in sugar and, preferably, made with whole grains.
- Salmon. This fish is a lean protein, making it a great way to build muscle. Salmon is also chock-full of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), which also help increase muscle. Plus, salmon is fantastically healthy for you whether you are working out or not, thanks to the fish’s high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to protect from many different diseases, and can reduce muscle inflammation.
- Peanut butter. Your body needs healthy fats to burn as fuel during exercise (especially endurance workouts), and peanut butter is rich in fat. Note that since fat takes a while to digest, you should only consume peanut butter well before you start your workout. Peanut butter is also one of the best ways to build muscle because of its high calorie content.
- Chicken. A lean protein like chicken is one of the best things you can consume before exercise, particularly if you want to add muscle. Chicken is also low in fat and high in a host of different vitamins and minerals, making it one of the healthiest meats. Another advantage of chicken is its culinary versatility: there are so many different ways to prepare chicken that it’s unlikely you’ll get tired of eating it.
- Nuts. Nuts of almost any kind will improve your workout. Nuts are filled with protein, and are also high in valuable healthy fats. Most nuts contain a rich variety of minerals and vitamins as well. Besides being nutritious, nuts are easy to eat when on the go. If you don’t have the time to prepare a full meal, nuts might be your best option.
- Water. While not a food, water must be part of your pre-workout meal. Hydration is probably even more necessary than nutritious foods for strenuous exercise. Your performance will degrade and you’ll become exhausted if you are dehydrated during a workout. While consuming liquids as you exercise is vital, filling up beforehand is also a must.
While these foods will make your workout better, you can’t start exercising right after you eat them. Working out immediately after a meal will result in cramps and stomach pain. Arrange your schedule so that you begin exercising one to three hours after eating. The smaller the time gap, the lighter the meal should be.
Otherwise, use the good, nutritious foods mentioned above to get the most out of your workout. Your body requires fuel to perform difficult, tiring physical exertions, so provide it the best-quality fuel possible.