Ideally you should eat 3-4 hours before a training session to allow for adequate digestion and absorption of the food.
Getting up and working out early in the morning makes eating this far in advance of the session impractical. So what should you do?
You should definitely still have something in order to have the energy to get the most out of your exercise. Aim to ‘fuel up’ your body 1-2 hours prior to your workout.
Some ideas for a meal 3 – 4 hours before exercising:
- Baked beans on toast
- Cereal with milk
- Fruit salad and yoghurt
- Crumpets or toast with jam, honey or peanut butter
- A couple of boiled eggs and wholegrain bread
Light snack ideas for 1 -2 hours before a workout:
- Fruit smoothie
- Sports bar
- Cereal with milk
- Cereal bar
- Liquid meal supplement such as Sustagen
You should still have something to break the nightly fast even if you have less than an hour between waking and exercising – try a sports drink or sports bar, a banana or a glass or fresh 100% fruit juice and have the energy to get the most from your workout session.
Overall you need to determine what works best for you. Timing, food and amount will affect each individual differently. The amount you eat should also be determined by the type of exercise you are undertaking – larger amounts of food and drink are better tolerated if you are doing lower intensity exercise or activity where the body is supported such as cycling. If you consume larger quantities and then take part in exercise such as running you run the risk of stomach discomfort due to the jostling of the gut.
Try to include low GI foods such as multigrain bread, yoghurt or oranges – these foods will cause a slower release of glucose throughout the session, giving you energy for longer. If going for a sports drink or sports bar always read the labelling first so you know exacting what you’re consuming in terms of sugar, salt and additives – not all are created equally.
Eating too much prior to working out can cause you to feel sluggish or even suffer from stomach cramps. Eating too little can have you feeling depleted of enough energy to get through the session.
Remember to keep up your fluids to avoid dehydration and for optimum benefit of your session – eat again immediately (or within half an hour) after your training.