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a smoothie bowl with bananas, strawberries, blueberries and granola in a glass bowl on a marble table

In honor of National Nutrition Month, let’s discuss pre-workout meals! It can be challenging to decide what to eat before heading to the Y. There are a lot of myths out there about whether you should even be eating before a workout.

Studies have shown that you can improve your workout performance by having a small snack or meal one hour before being physically active. Consuming something that is carb-heavy can allow you to have longer workouts or manage higher-intensity training.

Timing is also important. If you are planning to eat quickly before a workout, then you should be just fine with a small snack. But avoid eating larger meals anywhere from 3-4 hours before your workout.

But the biggest thing to note before you work out? Making sure you hydrate! Drinking water before you get to the Y is crucial; you should be drinking between 16-24 fluid ounces of water the 2-3 hours leading into your workout.

Now, what should you be fueling yourself with? As mentioned, carbohydrates are great before workouts because they provide you with lots of energy! Specifically, food that is heavy in fiber, like bananas, beans, avocados, potatoes, nuts, and even popcorn.

Looking for other options? Here’s a mix of items to consider:

  • Loose granola, oatmeal, or granola bars (look for low-fat options)
  • Snacks that you can make with peanut butter (whether that’s PB&J, fruits dipped in peanut butter, pretzels, and peanut butter, etc.). Also, consider peanut butter alternatives like almond and cashew butter
  • Fruit (seek out lower-sugar fruits like strawberries, watermelon, and oranges)
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Fruit/vegetable smoothies
  • Bagels/toast (preferably whole grain!)
  • Protein bar/shake
  • Brown rice
  • Low-sugar sports drinks

Certain foods are also more fitting for certain workouts. If you are focusing more on weight training, you may look for a more protein-rich meal (nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans). Looking to burn things up with cardio or in the pool? You may want more carbs (whole grain bread, brown rice, cereal).

But what is best to avoid right before a workout? We’ve got you covered there too!

  • High-fat foods (beef, bacon, cheese, potato chips, etc.)
  • Fried foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • High-sugar foods/desserts
  • Spicy foods
  • Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage (due to them taking longer to digest)

This also goes for drinks like fruit juice, kombucha, and even sports drinks. The issue here is that they are often high in refined sugars, which are more processed than natural sugar. The difference is whole foods that have sugar (like bananas or hummus) provide you with vitamins and minerals that are often stripped away to make things like candy and soda taste even stronger. Whenever the option is available, go with water.

If you’re ever wondering about what works best for you, check in with our Health & Wellness teams across our Ys – they’re ready to help guide you along your health and wellness journey.