What Should I Eat (and Drink) Before a Workout?

Juicy fruits provide quick fuel and hydration

What you eat and drink can have a big impact on your next workout or dance rehearsal. Here I’ll go over some strategies to help you best prepare for vigorous movement.

HYDRATION

Without adequate water intake, it is hard to exercise, focus or even feel good. Staying hydrated is key to a successful workout.

Drink 1-2 cups of water 1 hour before your workout. Drink another cup (or so) of water 30 minutes before your workout. These are general guides; if you have a high intake of other liquids (e.g. the water in fresh fruit, smoothies, soup, coffee or tea), you’ll likely need less water before you start exercising.

Most sports drinks are water with sugar and electrolytes. They may yield a minor improvement in sports performance, but in general it is better to get nutrients from food, and to avoid added sugars as much as possible. Instead, try eating fresh fruit, such as an orange, slice of watermelon or handful of berries. Besides water and sugar, these whole foods contain many other health-promoting nutrients that sports drink do not have.

If your workout lasts longer than 1 hour, or you’re in the midst of a long rehearsal, you’ll likely need to hydrate during it to maintain output. If it’s less than 1 hour, sip water when you are thirsty or just wait until it’s over. Other factors that influence hydration requirements are temperature, humidity, and the intensity of the activity.

MEAL TIMING

Most of my clients train first thing in the morning, with only enough time to digest a small amount of food. Dancers often go from class to rehearsal, or only have a short break inside a 4-hour dance practice. When you have about 30 minutes before your workout, it’s best to either not eat or have a light snack such as a piece of fruit. Otherwise you run the risk of being in digestion mode when you’re trying to exercise, which means reduced performance during your workout or a rough ending partway through.

Remember:
It takes about 4 hours to digest a big meal.

It takes about 2 hours to digest a mid-sized meal.

It takes about 20-30 minutes to digest a piece of fruit.

EXAMPLES OF PRE-WORKOUT SNACKS

30 minutes before
1 piece of fruit (orange, apple, banana, berries, dates)
1 piece of dry, wholegrain toast
1/2 cup fruit/veg smoothie (check out my article on green smoothies)

1 hour before
Cereal/Oatmeal with milk
1/2 sandwich (always opt for with wholegrain bread and veggies)
Carrots and hummus
1 cup fruit/veg smoothie
1 small handful nuts or seeds

By hydrating and eating appropriately, you can support your own workout success. If you have less than 1 hour before your next movement session, drink water and eat whole food that is fast-digesting, such as fruit.

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