We talked to Lisa Jubilee, MS, CDN, a certified nutritionist and dietician and co-founder of Living Proof Nutrition Fitness in midtown Manhattan to get the scoop.
"When and what you eat prior to a workout can have a significant impact on your energy level and performance during your workout," Lisa says. "The first thing to determine before deciding on what to eat, is what is your purpose for working out?"
If you're trying to burn fat during your workout, Lisa says, the best option is not to replenish your glycogen stores, or the glucose stored in your muscles and liver.
?For short workouts, maybe a 15-20 minute HIT cardio workout or a 3-mile run, Lisa says, "try not to eat first to maximize fat loss. Get up, hydrate with 16-20 oz of water, have a little caffeine (coffee or green tea) and be on your way."
If instead you're opting for an hour or more of endurance work or strength-training, Lisa recommends getting some fuel in your system. "The best type of pre-workout fuel includes quick burning and slow burning fuel. A small meal or snack consisting of protein, a little fat and some carbohydrates is the perfect mix."
Also, don't chow down immediately before hitting the gym!
?"Have your pre-workout mini meal 30-60 minutes before your workout," Lisa advises. "You don't want to eat minutes before so it stays down, but also so your body isn't utilizing fuel (TEF-thermic effect of food) to digest that meal instead of providing you with that fuel for your workout."
Want a few easy snacks you can eat to make your workout that much more productive? Lisa gave us a list that will get you started!
If you're wanting to boost your energy and not fall asleep on the treadmill, Lisa suggests going for the greens.
"If you want a healthy boost of pure, clean energy, go for a fresh green juice before your workout," she says. "Make sure it is mostly greens with a little bit of fruit, like berries or half a banana. The greens and fruit mix will provide you with pure energy and since the produce is already broken down from blending, they will enter your blood stream much quicker than when eaten in solid form."
Just because a juice is green doesn't mean it has to taste like grass! Try one of these green ingredients to build up your energy for the gym.
The Right Carbs
You may have a hard time believing it, but not all carbs are evil - shocker, we know. Processed and deep-fried starch is an absolute no-go, but the carbs in fruit and other sources of 'good fats' can give you the necessary energy to push through your workout.
"Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy," Lisa says, "so before a workout is one of the best times to eat unprocessed carbohydrates. Have a whole fruit (banana or apple) or a 12-16 oz fruit smoothie 30 minutes before a long, intense workout (60 minutes or more)."
Chia seeds have become a recent trend for a reason: they have so many health benefits. According to Lisa, they are "rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, and they are hydrophilic." This means, they absorb water and can help keep you hydrated during a long workout.
You don't have to just chomp down a handful of chia seeds to feel the benefits either. Try adding some to a delicious juice.
Kale is another food that's gotten a great reputation among the fitness world, and we can see why!
"Good 'ole kale is a powerhouse of nutrition," Lisa says. "It's low in calories but loaded with chlorophyll, calcium, vitamin A and K (necessary for blood clotting, immunity and bone heath). One cup of kale even contains 3 grams of protein."
And don't think you have to eat those greens like a rabbit either. Just like with chia seeds, kale tastes great in a green juice or roasted in the oven to make crisps.
Do you suffer from cramps when running for long periods of time? You are definitely not the only one, and eating a little something before pounding the pavement can help keep those pains at bay.
"Foods rich in electrolytes - calcium, potassium and magnesium - can aid in preventing muscle cramping," Lisa says. "Examples of foods rich in these nutrients are whole grain bread, bananas, sweet potatoes, yogurt, seeds, hazelnuts, pecans, wheat germ and navy beans."
So if you're looking for a way to combine all of these for a pre-workout snack, Lisa recommends eating "plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with wheat germ, a few slices of banana and pecans."
If you're like us, you'll need no convincing to add a bit more avocado to your diet. Not only does this staple taste delicious in guacamole, but it also goes great as a salad topping or spread on whole wheat crackers.
"Avocados are a superb staple in a healthy diet," Lisa says. "They are loaded with healthy fats, B-vitamins and magnesium." Gotta love that!
We all know processed foods aren't the best if we're trying to live a healthy lifestyle. The best way to keep your energy high and your body healthy? Eat natural, nutrient-rich foods!
"Nutrient-rich foods provide you with a large quantity of essential nutrients without an unhealthy calorie load or toxic chemicals and additives the body has to spend energy excreting," Lisa says. "An easy rule is to focus on eating REAL food. Focus on eating dark green leafy vegetables, which are rich in chlorophyll, vitamin A, C iron and calcium. It is also important to regularly consume vegetables of all colors. This will ensure that you are providing your body with an array of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and pure energy."
If your metabolism has been lagging a bit, try drinking some green tea instead of your regular coffee, you'll be surprised at what a difference green tea can make.
"There are numerous studies that drinking 4-5 cups of green tea per day can not only strengthen your immune system, but also boost your metabolism slightly, without the jitters some people experience from too much coffee," Lisa says.
If you're not a whiz in the kitchen or you're strapped for new ideas on how to fit all these nutritious foods into your diet before working out, try one of Lisa's Pre-Workout Mini Meals.
- 1 hard boiled egg and hummus.
- 1 slice sprouted grain bread with 1 tbsp organic almond butter.
- 1 banana rolled in sunflower seeds.
- 5 oz plain organic Greek yogurt topped with 2 tsp chia seeds and ½ cup sliced strawberries.
Are you in a rush and don't have time to make yourself a quick mini meal? Lisa suggests trying out KIND bars. KIND bars are made from all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains with no artificial additives.
We know what you're thinking, but don't worry, they actually taste great and have more than enough delicious options to choose from. Lisa suggests the best ones to go for are their "new delicious line of 5-gram sugar options, like dark chocolate nuts and sea salt."
What foods do you eat before hitting the gym? Let us know @wewomenCA!