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Pre-Workout Fuel: When and What Should I Eat?

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“You are what you eat” is true when it comes to fitness. If you’ve eaten good food, you will have good energy. We need food to fuel our everyday functions, and especially need it to put energy into our workouts and help rebuild and repair after. There are some trends that suggest skipping a meal, say during intermittent fasting, will trigger your body to burn more fat. If weight loss is your goal, the idea of skipping meals might seem an attractive option for quick and easy weight loss. However, many in the nutrition and fitness world rail against the idea of skipping meals. Our bodies need fuel in order to work, and not eating can cause more damage to our muscles by depriving them of the nutrients needed to keep them functioning properly.

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Skipping meals is never a good idea, especially if you’ve got a workout planned. Our bodies need fuel in order to have the energy to power through a spin class, lift that kettlebell, and finish a set of lunges. One reason to eat before a workout: it will stop you from feeling nauseous or faint during your actual workout. Not only does hunger take away your focus, it can be counterproductive to all the work you’re putting in. When and what to eat ultimately comes down to timing. Hydration and food need to be a priority, and they need to be consumed within a certain time frame in order to allow your body to digest.

Timing is everything. If you’re short on time, say 30 minutes before your workout, and hungry, choose small, easily digested carbs as your pre-workout snack; a banana is a great option for you when time is of the essence. 100-200 calories should give you enough energy to get your body prepared for a workout. If you’ve got an hour or even two hours, you can do a little more, with a combination of carbohydrates and a little bit of protein; a cup of yogurt with fruit or nuts, for example. The carbs are for energy and the protein will help with muscle repair.

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Not to be forgotten is the need to hydrate. In order for your body to have time to process water, you’ll want to consume 2-3 cups of water at least one hour before your workout. Dehydration can be a real setback, so keep a glass of water on your nightstand; when the alarm goes off, you can quickly hydrate for those early morning workouts, or keep your water bottle handy during the day so that you’re ready to go for your evening sweat sesh.

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