What do you eat before your workout? The wrong foods can wreak havoc on your body and sabotage your exercise routine.
All psyched up for that killer session in the gym? Having explosive energy is key, but eating the wrong foods too close to go-time can really ruin your workout and set your training back in a big way.
“Putting the wrong things in your tank before you exercise can leave you lethargic, crash your system, or cause wicked cramps,” says Jane White, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “And going on empty can do the same.”
So don’t doom your cardio or weight session before it even starts. Here are 5 of the biggest pre-workout diet mistakes many women make—and why you should avoid them.
MISTAKE #1: THE SUGAR HIGH
You’ve come up against an afternoon energy crash and are hoping that chocolate cookie—which has been sitting on your desk since morning—will give you a high you can ride straight through your last rep. In reality, though, it’s going to do the opposite.
“Anything that sweet and high in refined carbs will spike your blood sugar—and cause you to crash right in the middle of your workout,” says White.
MISTAKE #2: THE FAST FOOD MEAL
So you don’t necessarily intend to exercise after housing a hamburger value meal, but as it sits like a brick in your stomach, you feel desperate to work it off. Hey, whatever gets you to the gym, right?
Wrong. High-fat meals can take up to four hours to digest, which will seriously slow you down. “All your blood is flowing to your stomach to help with digestion, which means it’s moving away from your muscles when they need it most,” says White.
MISTAKE #3: THE EMPTY STOMACH
You think that going for a run right on the edge of hunger will help you burn off tons of fat? Sucker. All it’s going to do is make your workout feel like hell.
“Training hard on an empty stomach starves your muscles of glycogen—which makes them tire faster,” says White. “Even something small, like a piece of fruit and some yogurt, will give your entire body a much-needed boost.”
MISTAKE #4: THE ENERGY DRINK
This one’s tricky, because research has proven that a little pre-workout caffeine can rev you up. The problem is, monstrous energy drinks also have tons of workout-crashing sugar. “The high amounts of caffeine in many of these drinks can really wreck your sleeping habits, setting off a vicious cycle,” says White. “Because when you don’t get enough sleep, your workouts and diet suffer, too.”
MISTAKE #5: THE RAW EGG COCKTAIL
We’ve all seen Rocky, where America’s favorite fictional-champ-in-training starts his day off by chugging a glassful of raw eggs. And while a hit of protein before a workout can help build muscle, there are much better ways to get it than a rank-tasting beverage…that could come with a side dose of diarrhea-causing salmonella.
MISTAKE #6: THE JUICE IT UP MORNING ROUTINE
Gulping a glass of OJ might seem like a good idea before your sweat session, especially if it’s in the morning, but you’ll question your decision halfway through spin class, when climbing that hill seems impossible. What gives? You are better off eating the orange instead, White says. Juice (even 100-percent fresh-squeezed) has a lot of sugar, and no fiber. While it still offers some vitamins, it will go right through your system, causing a blood sugar crash later.
MISTAKE #7: THE NUTTY COMBO
Even though nuts are a great snack (and can help with weight loss) most roasted nuts are also salted, and salty foods can disrupt the delicate fluid-balance required for optimal workouts, White says.
WHAT IS THE BEST PRE-WORKOUT SNACK?
So what should you have instead? For a pre-workout snack, White recommends Greek yogurt or cottage cheese paired with a healthy carb, like fruit—or downing a modest protein shake (about 200-300 calories) 45 minutes before you’re set to sweat.