The Finest Chefs

Part 1/2 : What and When to Eat Before You Start Exercising


Without fail, our body needs fuel to get us through a workout; to get it, our body has to metabolize glycogen to create energy. But, the glycogen it uses is already in our muscles does not come from anything we eat just prior to a workout. Most of us have enough glycogen in our muscles already to fuel a one to two hour intense, or a three to four hour moderate, workout.

However, if you feel tired, experience mild dizziness, or even some faintness while exercising, you may have a greater sensitivity to a drop in blood sugar that normally occurs 15-20 minutes into a workout. If so, then it might be advantageous for you to eat something before exercising.

To get some pre-workout calories into your system, try either of these eating tips:

  • eat a snack 30 minutes before working out.
  • eat a nutritionally balanced meal one to 2 hours before working out.

The goal is to avoid exercising on either an empty or full stomach, yet have the energy we need to fuel us through a workout.

The Snack

Certain foods are better than others at providing the pre-workout energy boost that some of us need. Strive to keep your healthy snack at 100 to 200 calories. Some great fast-digesting simple carbohydrate choices include:

  • fresh fruit, like pineapple, apricots, banana or watermelon.
  • a sports drink.
  • a fruit smoothie.
  • an energy bar.

Or try cutting up some fresh fruit, such as strawberries and mixing it with non-fat vanilla yogurt. Add some granola on top (for the crunch factor) and you have a great healthy snack what will fuel you through your upcoming workout.

The Meal

The goal here is to consume about 50% of the number of calories you will burn during your upcoming workout. At least half of these calories should come from complex carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable during your workout. The other half should come from protein and fat at about a 35%:15% ratio respectively.

Some good meal choices are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Cereals (with more than 3 grams of fiber) and milk
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit
  • Hummus and raw veggies
  • Hard boiled eggs (or egg whites)
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Half a peanut butter or turkey/chicken sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Whole grain crackers with nut butter or cheese
  • Whole grain fig or date cookies

By eating complex carbohydrates, protein and fat at the recommended ratio, you will have energy to fuel your body through the upcoming workout.

Timing Is Key

Remember you don’t want to exercise either on a full or empty stomach, but you want enough energy available to get you through a good workout and to get your body in a fat-burning mode. And finally, hydration is important, as it will make your workout easier and more effective. Before working out, try to drink at least two 8 ounces glasses of water one to 2 hours prior to your workout.



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Andrea Skye

Andrea Skye

Brought up in the seaside town of Brighton, I was an avid reader living in a house that was always full of books, fine food and dining. I became a travel writer researching and writing content on health, diet and lifestyle.

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