What To Eat Before You Exercise

Not so long ago I did an article about what you should be eating after exercise, if you didn’t catch it click here. In that article I discussed how crucial it was to refuel your body with good food and drink after the exertions of the exercise session, this in turns allows the body to recover and then grow.

So what about pre exercise nutrition?
Is it as important?

Yes and no.

It won’t have as big an impact as the post workout meal in terms of muscle growth and things like that but it is very important.

Think of food as fuel for a car, after a long drive (exercise session) you need to refuel it, with me so far?

So before a long drive (exercise session) you need to top up the fuel too (food).

You all know how big an effect the food we eat can have on our energy levels. When you exercise you want to be feeling as good as possible so that is why it is important we eat right before training to allow us to be feeling awesome which will aid your performance massively for the session.

How many of you have had a crap workout after going there feeling sluggish/full/hungry? I know I have.

The food we eat prior to exercise should help:
 •Maintain energy
•Speed recovery
•Hydrate you
•Preserve muscle mass
•Boost exercise performance

You should look to eat around 3 hours before your workout, if you don’t have enough time find something light which will give you a bit of a boost such as a piece of fruit if you’re short on time.

Our 3 main food choices are Protein, Fats & Carbohydrates. Here is how each of these have a pre workout effect when consumed:


•Help to maintain muscle size
•Reduce muscle damage which helps recovery
•Fills your bloodstream with amino acids when your body needs them most


•Gives you the energy to train and aids with recovery. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the benefits of carbs before long exercise sessions e.g. carb loading before a marathon. But carbs can also boost performance for short high intense exercises.
•Helps to preserve muscle and liver glycogen, this helps to maintain muscle and stimulate growth.
•When combined with protein can help to stimulate the release of insulin which improves protein syntheses and prevents protein breakdown. So try to have a meal containing carbs and protein rather than just a Powerade!


•The don’t have so much of an effect but they do help to slow digestion which maintains insulin and blood glucose levels.
•Provide many important minerals and vitamins associated with a healthy diet.

Everyone is different so just see what works for you. Listen to your body and see how it responds, if you find certain foods pre exercise diminish your performance try something else, if you find certain foods help (and they’re healthy) use them.

Like I mentioned above you can have a proper meal around 3 hours before or a small snack/meal within an hour of exercising if that suits you and your lifestyle better. What you eat can depend on your goals, size, time of workout, intensity and many other specifics. For a more detailed answer to your unique needs drop me an email or comment below.

It’s important to always stay hydrated as well as dehydration has a massive negative effect on exercise performance. No matter if you’ve eaten the best pre workout foods in the world if you haven’t drunk enough you won’t hit top gear.

Pre workout meal ideas:
– Porridge and nuts
– Boiled eggs and asparagus
– Omelette
– Banana/ choice of fruit
– Rice cake and peanut butter
– Chicken and rice
– Tuna and sweet potato
– Fruit &(or) vegetable smoothie

If you find a pre workout drink works for you and the ingredients are quality then you may find that’s enough to get you through your workout or to give you that extra boost.

Just find foods which don’t make your stomach feel funny.

When it comes to eating during exercise it’s not so important for your normal exercisers. This is important if you are running a marathon/other endurance events but for the average exerciser who trains for less than 90mins just staying hydrated is the most important thing.

I hope this helps.

Fuel up, train hard, refuel, rest, repeat.

Take it easy but not too easy!

Jamie Stedman

Personal Trainer Llanelli

PS Try to avoid lucozade, powerade and other energy drinks like that if you are just doing a normal exercise session, they are crammed full of sugar so are unnecessary calories for minimum benefit.

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