8 Important Things To Know When Planning Pre-Workout Meals

A number of things, including the time of day you exercise and the medications you take, can play a role when it comes to choosing pre-workout food.

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What you eat can make or break your workout.

The best pre-workout food for your body depends on a number of things: the type of exercise you do, the medications you take and other factors should be considered when planning your meals, according to Jenn Zerling, a fitness and nutrition expert who launched the JZ FITNESS NUTRITION app featuring over 50 healthy sample meals,

“Pre-workout fuel has been a streaming conversation for years and while there are answers to this question, everyone is going to require a different answer depending on several variables,” Zerling said.

So, before you bite into that protein bar, check out these need-to-know tips:

You should always get clearance from your doctor before engaging in any new physical activity or nutrition plan.

If you train in the morning…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: A light shake at least an hour before exercise.

“Morning training is great because your metabolism is high and it sets up for wonderful benefits throughout the day. As I already mentioned, a light shake is beneficial. Leave at least an hour between training and your shake,” Zerling said.

To learn some easy-to-make shake recipes, check out the JZ FITNESS NUTRITION app.

If your workout is less than an hour long…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: A low-calorie, low-carb snack.

“You don’t need a lot of calories and carbs for a workout that lasts less than an hour, unless it is high-intensity interval training style (HIIT). If you are overweight and looking to burn fat, then cut the grains altogether and allow your carbs to come from low glycemic fruits,” Zerling said.

If you practice yoga…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: You may not have to eat anything, but make sure to stay hydrated.

“Yoga is the only methodology of exercise that you can skip breakfast to practice because the best conditions include not filling your gut up for when you practice,” Zerling said. “I practice at Core Power Yoga which is hot and we flow a lot.  When I personally eat too much prior, it isn’t a pretty situation.  I am bloated and can barely contract my abs. You never want this situation for your practice.  So unless you practice during the day a few hours prior to practice, I say eat afterwards and just stay well hydrated during class.”

If you are doing high intensity interval training (HIIT)…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: Fruit, brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal coupled with a protein.

“There are several high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs in my book, but if you want to experience a HIIT workout at its best, try an Orangetheory Fitness class.  For this class, you should eat more carbs compared to if you did yoga, for example,” Zerling said.

If you are taking medications…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: A meal that is low in fiber and fat, but higher in protein and carbohydrates.

“Having a meal that is low in fiber and fat, but higher in protein and carbohydrates will allow your body to shuttle sugar to the working muscles, keeping blood sugars regulated. No matter what time you train in the day, you must eat something prior to exercise if you take meds,” Zerling said. “Some medications can affect blood pressure, blood sugars, heartbeat… you name it. Don’t mess with your body.  The protein will help transport nutrients into the cells while exercising.  Make sure you drink 8 oz of water prior and during your activity.”

If taking medications, you should ask your doctor for nutritional advice and make sure to be aware of foods that should not be combined with the medications you are taking. As a rule of thumb, you should always let your doctor or medical professional know before starting a new diet plan or introducing new foods into your diet. 

If you are pregnant…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: Fruit or a protein shake.

“In this case, you will need food because when you exercise, you are fueling your own body’s metabolism and musculoskeletal systems,” Zerling said. “If you don’t eat something light, then you won’t have enough fuel for your workout. Always listen to your body when you train. Remember, you are training and eating for two people. Do not deplete your systems. Pregnant women should never be on any weight loss plan!”

If you are diabetic…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: A balanced meal with a low glycemic carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie. According to Zerling, you should always carry sugar with you when you train.

“You should always be checking your blood sugars throughout the day, especially in the A.M., if you work out then,” Zerling said. “While I am not a big fan of Coca-Cola, I have a friend who is a medical doctor with Type 1 Diabetes. He carries a Coca-Cola with him every time he trains. The type of sugar in soda empties into the blood stream quicker than a fruit would, and fruit juice, for that matter. Please note that this is the only condition to drink a soda. I am very much against sodas otherwise.”

If you are prone to hypoglycemia…

BEST PRE-WORKOUT FOOD: Morning workouts should consist of a light protein shake since it is easily digestible, and small frequent meals throughout the day, Zerling said.

“Make sure you leave enough time prior to exercise because despite a shake being in liquid form, it still passes through the gut which should be cleared by the time you exercise to avoid gastritis. Everyone decreases blood sugar levels through exercise, especially moderate to vigorous physical activity. With that said, hypoglycemia, or a drop in blood sugar, can lead to fainting, lightheadedness or even more severe consequences if not tended to,” Zerling said.

Please consult with your doctor or other qualified health professional before using any product discussed within this website, or before starting an exercise program, medical program, or changing your diet.