There are many diets that claim that carbs are the enemy, but not all carbs are created equal. Your body actually needs them to burn for energy! The problem with carbs is that a lot of junk foods and sweets have plenty of carbs but no vitamins or nutrients, plus they contain more calories than we really need.
You need carbs before a workout so that you have energy to expend, but you need to pick the right kind of carbs to reap all the benefits and reduce the downsides. Simple carbs are burned up quickly, so they will give you a boost to start your workout.
Simple carbs can be found in fruits (as well as sugary and fatty snacks, but it’s best to stick to healthy fruits that include nutrients that your body needs.) Complex carbs take longer to burn, so they will last longer through your workout; you can find these in grains and vegetables. Mix both simple and complex carbs to keep you fueled throughout the whole workout.
Protein is important to build muscle, but the average North American gets a lot of protein in our diet already so you don’t have to go overboard. Aim for 10 to 20 grams of protein before a workout (one cup of Greek yogurt has 17 grams of protein.)
So what can you eat to get simple and complex carbs and protein? Think about whole wheat toast topped with your favorite natural nut butter and a slice banana or strawberries. A Greek yogurt parfait with granola and berries will do the trick, as would a smoothie that uses Greek yogurt, some milk, fruits, and spinach (don’t worry, you can’t taste the spinach.)
Oatmeal with berries and walnuts also make a great breakfast. If you work out later in the day, consider munching on sweet potatoes for complex carbs, some lean protein like chicken or fish, or a spinach salad with berries.
As with every post you’ll see about workout tips, this one has to mention hydration. It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking water regularly, not all at once before a workout. If you guzzle it right before you begin to exercise, you’ll feel weighed down and even like there’s a “sloshing” in your stomach as you begin to move around.
Just like with drinking water, timing is everything when it comes to eating. Aim to eat about two hours before you exercise so that your body has time to start digesting the meal. It’s just like the idea about not going swimming within 30 minutes of eating: you may feel sluggish and full so soon after eating and won’t be able to move as freely and comfortably as you’d like.