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What Should You Eat Before Working Out?

Here at Healing Hands Chiropractic, we have some tips on what you should do before a workout. Much like the machinery we use every day, our bodies need the proper fuel or energy to carry out each function. Therefore, if you plan to work out your body doing cardio or lifting weights, it makes sense that you would need to provide an energy source to do so. But, where most people struggle is knowing when and what to eat before vigorous activity.

Neglecting to Fuel the Body

Before diving into how to properly fuel the body for a workout, it’s important to look at how skipping this step can negatively impact you and your exercise routine. First, not eating, or not eating enough before exercising can make you lightheaded, nauseous, lethargic and dizzy. Additionally, it can reduce your strength and endurance gains and even make you more prone to an accident or injury.

1. Find the Right Time

Because many people exercise to lose or maintain their weight, they often think that eating before working out will work against their goal. However, the reality is that eating before and after your workout can actually encourage greater results of the work you are putting in.

So when should you eat before working out? Ideally, you will eat a meal or a snack anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours before exercising. Exercising at these times will ensure you are not still digesting your food, but you still have calories from your last meal to use. Since everyone digests food differently, it may be beneficial to experiment with these times and discover what works best for you individually. 

2. Eat Carbohydrates

While carbs get a bad rap these days, they are vital for quick energy. Having carbohydrates prior to a workout will ensure your muscles have adequate glucose to complete your routine. Without them, you may feel not only tired, but weak. 

Carbohydrate options before engaging in exercise may look like: 

  • Toast
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruit
  • Rice cakes
  • Granola bars
  • Crackers 

3. Include Protein

Along with carbohydrates, protein is a must, especially if weight training. What many people don’t realize is that weight, or strength, training actually tears the muscle fibers in order to rebuild them and make them stronger. To do this, though, the body must have protein. 

Quick and easy sources of protein to grab before a workout may include:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Slices of deli meat
  • Nuts
  • Regular or soy milk
  • Hard-boiled eggs

A small amount of protein for physical activity is sufficient and it is important to choose those that are easily digestible; otherwise, an upset stomach could result. 

4. Choose a Good Routine

Just because your best friend can down a protein shake before exercising, doesn’t mean that you have to. Everyone is different and how our bodies handle exercise and the way we fuel them is different. Play around with larger meals vs. snacks as well as the timing of when you consume food before a workout. 

Your schedule may dictate some of this as well. If you plan to hit the gym or a park after work, it may only be reasonable to fit in a snack. Regardless of when you can squeeze in your physical activity, plan ahead and make sure you are consuming sufficient calories for adequate endurance. 

5. Don’t Forget Water

While this step may seem obvious, it is vital that you are taking in plenty of water throughout the day and especially prior to a workout. A quick and easy way to determine how hydrated you are is to look at your urine, especially in the morning. If it is similar in color to lemonade, you are properly hydrated; however, if it resembles the color of apple juice, you may be severely lacking in water.

Not taking in enough water can cause dehydration leading to muscle spasms and cramps, as well as low energy. To avoid this, try drinking a few cups of water two to three hours before working out and another cup about 20 minutes prior. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of fluids during the workout, especially if you are partaking in vigorous activity or exercising in a warm environment. 

After Workout Routine

Now that you’ve mastered how to effectively fuel your body for a workout, it’s important to remember to refuel it after you’ve exercised. Again, while this may seem counterintuitive, it is actually important for the recovery process and to build stronger muscles. Additionally, not eating after exercising can leave you feeling fatigued and with low blood sugar. 

Similar to the pre-workout meal, stick with the carbs and protein and try to eat soon to restore your energy. During exercise your glycogen stores in your muscles are depleted and, again, the muscle fibers are torn. Carbohydrates will replenish the glycogen and protein will help to heal the muscle fiber tears. Even if a meal can’t be consumed right after working out, grab a healthy snack that contains both of these and try to fit in a meal no longer than two hours later.

Take Time to Rehydrate

Just because you have finished your workout and may no longer be sweating does not mean that you should stop drinking water. Some feel that rehydrating is even more important than refueling the body. Regardless, if your exercise routine was particularly intense, or you exercised in a hot environment, make sure you continue to drink water. 

One way to determine your specific needs for water intake after a workout is to weigh yourself before and after. Then, make sure you are drinking at least 16 ounces of water for every pound lost during the physical activity. Along with this, listen to your body and keep water handy to encourage yourself to drink water every time you feel slightly thirsty.

Recovering from Your Workouts

While we know that working out is beneficial for the body, it’s no secret that it can leave you stiff and in a lot of pain. So why not couple your workout with top-notch chiropractic care at Healing Hands Chiropractic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We are confident our team will help you recover faster and get you excited for that next workout. Call us today if you are experiencing any pain from your workouts and need an adjustment.