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Athletes of all sports and abilities have wondered at one time or another, what food they should eat before a training session. To get the most out of a workout, you will need to devote some time and attention to your nutrition habits in order to know what works the best for your body.

Many athletes fear gastrointestinal distress during competition and will refrain from eating. This can cause energy loss which negatively affects performance. Every athlete is different regarding pre-exercise food, so it may be a good practice to start slowly with a training/nutrition journal and introduce pre-workout foods in small increments to see how your body reacts.

What should I eat before I train?
Before training or competition, an athlete should give their bodies a quick carbohydrate boost to their muscles with about 30 grams of carbohydrates. Some examples of good pre-workout snacks are:

  • Energy, granola, or fruit bars
  • Pretzels or crackers
  • Packet of oatmeal, bagel or toast
  • Dried fruit

How long should I wait after eating a full meal?  

In general, most people wait 2-4 hours after a full meal to begin their workouts. This way, the meal will have had plenty of time to be digested and give you the energy boost you will need to perform.

Good hydration is just as important as the fuel you put into your body so make sure you drink plenty of fluids before a heavy workout. Think about including the fluids you consume into your training journal as well, such as sports drinks or gels, since they may have an impact on your body that you didn’t expect. Overall, planning pre-workout nutrition pays off in better performances, increased energy levels and happier athletes.

    References from the SIRC Collection:

    1. Berning J. Fueling Athletes for Training and Competition: Nutrition recommendations for before, during and after workouts or competitive events. IDEA Fitness Journal. January 2011;8(1):73-75. 
    2. CLARK N. Fueling for Training. American Fitness. January 2011;29(1):66-67.
    3. Nutrition Tip of the Month: Fluids and Nutrition Prior to a Workout or Race. Paddles Up (English Version). June 2009;:12.
    4. TIME YOUR MEALS FOR BETTER RESULTS. Men’s Fitness. May 2012;28(5):24.
    5. Twombley B. BEFORE & AFTER. Volleyball. August 2012;23(7):20-21.
    6. PRE AND POST. Flex. January 2010;27(11):116.
    7. Which bars fuel workouts best?. Shape. October 2003;23(2):144.
    8. Why you should eat before a workout. Active Living. July 2011;20(4):25.

    The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.