Finding the right pre-workout snack – in the appropriate quantity – can be tricky. While a heavy meal will make you feel lethargic, an insufficient snack won’t give you the energy you need to get through a difficult session. What you decide to eat before a workout directly impacts your performance. And in order to make sure there are no break-downs mid-journey, you need to fuel up. We spoke to Manasa Rajan, Holistic Health Coach, Food Product R&D @EatFit, to help you decode the science behind pre-workout nutrition, and the best snacks to eat before hitting the gym.
The impact of pre-workout snacks on your performance
According to Rajan, the timing and purpose of your workout is important when looking at pre-workout nutrition. “A morning workout can be a fasted one, especially if the goal is losing weight. But if you’re exercising in the evening, you should not go in hungry. Blood sugar levels and energy are a huge consideration here,” she says. In general, when the goal for an individual is performance – and not weight loss – pre-workout snacks become a pre-requisite.
What happens when you don’t eat before a workout
As a personal member of the I-have-fainted-at-the-gym club, I’m not the biggest fan of fasting before a workout, especially if you’re going for a cardio-intensive routine. Exercising on an empty stomach may cause your body to exhaust some important energy sources, which leaves you with lesser stamina and lower blood sugar levels. This is what causes feelings of dizziness or nausea. “The goal for training is to create optimal performance. When your body is in starvation mode or is low on energy, it won’t be able to produce the best output during your workout, therefore compromising the whole purpose,” explains Rajan.
Nutritional elements to look for in a pre-workout meal
Rajan recommends eating carbohydrates like dates, fruits, and oatmeal to fuel up on energy before a workout. Apart from this, another important nutrient for a pre-workout snack is protein, which can be found in nuts and seeds. She also suggests adding a little bit of fat and fibre to the mix. “Not too much, though. It should not be a huge meal, as large digestive load can take away from the output of your training,” she says.
Some people swear by coffee shots before hitting the gym. It’s true that caffeine intake enhances performance, but it can also have certain side effects. “It’s the more controversial choice, as it has an impact on your heart rate, blood pressure, etc., which some people can be more sensitive to than others,” says Rajan.
The role of hydration before, during and after a workout
Drinking water is not only key to a good workout, but is also necessary for recovery. “Reduced or compromised hydration, also called hypo hydration, can lower high intensity endurance performance, as well as strength and power performance during workouts,” says Rajan. Hydration also impacts your energy, movement, mental clarity, agility, thermos-regulation, while reducing risk of injuries. Not only should you start your workout in a hydrated state, you should also rehydrate during and after it, as you will lose water through sweat.
5 expert-approved pre-workout snacks
We asked Rajan to curate a pre-workout diet of 5 healthy and easy to prepare snacks you can eat before exercising. Here’s what she recommends-: