If you’re hungry before the gym, by all means, eat. There’s nothing less enjoyable than struggling through a grueling workout on an empty and angry stomach.
But equally unenjoyable is stepping into the gym, hopping on the treadmill, and feeling that familiar pang of digestive stress. You do not want to be experiencing digestive strain through your already strenuous run. Not to mention, gas and urgent trips to the bathroom can be so embarrassing.
Dietitians advise that you eat a snack at least thirty minutes prior to any workout. The ideal pre-workout snack contains both protein and carbohydrates to give you the energy you need and the muscle support to last your full session.
Some examples of good pre-workout snacks are a slice of toast with peanut butter, oatmeal with half a banana, or some fruit and crackers.
But if you ingest the wrong thing, you could be setting yourself up for an unproductive and, frankly, painful experience once you get to your workout. Trust us, you want to avoid these foods if you’re planning to work out.
If you’re going to the gym after work, maybe just sip some water during happy hour. And if you’re already feeling intoxicated you should probably just skip your workout entirely. Seriously, don’t pregame for the gym. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it can make you really dehydrated. Additionally, it suppresses fat oxidation, which is the process by which your body converts stored fat to usable energy. So even though you’re putting in the same — or more — work, you’ll get less of the “fat burning” benefits.
Almonds are high in fat, which is actually the reason why they’re great for you. But this, along with their tough, fibrous exterior, makes them hard to digest and a likely cause for stomach pain during your workout. Save them for afterwards, when you’ll need healthy fats and proteins to refuel. They also make the perfect study snack — hello, brain power!
While they do have the carbohydrates you’re looking for, apples are highly acidic and fibrous — a digestion nightmare. The fruit is high in pectin, a fiber that’s great for you, but unfortunately a common culprit of slowed digestion and bloating. Almonds and apples, however, would be a great post-workout duo!
They’re a really popular protein source for vegans and vegetarians, but they’re not the best choice if you don’t want to stink up your gym. Bean burgers, bean soups, or anything made with beans is bound to make you gassy — it’s the natural side effect of digesting beans’ fiber compounds.
They’re crunchy, they’re delicious, and they’re greasy. Not what you want when you want to get your body moving. Plus, chips are not advisable for snacking on often, due to the fact that they’re low in nutritional value. They don’t have any protein to speak of and are often packed with chemical additives.
Eggs, arguably a miracle food perfect for breakfasts, snacks, and dinners alike, are loaded with helpful nutrients like protein, choline, selenium, and dozens more. However, they have no carbs to speak of. And the protein is great, but you don’t want that much of it before you work out. You want just a little — and the protein overload in these nutritional powerhouses will weigh you down for the worse.
These tiny seeds are far more valuable than their size implies — they have tons of fiber in a small serving. However, the fiber can cause digestive strain for up to two hours after you consume it. So unless you have a large window of time before you step foot in your gym, hold the seeds for another time.
You know how after eating something fried you get that feeling where you just have to lie down? Yeah, that’s not what you want when you’re trying to motivate yourself to get moving. The high fat content is the culprit behind this phenomenon, alongside the processed ingredients normally used in fried foods. Stick to low fat and all natural foods before you sweat.
High in fat and dairy, ice cream is a terrible idea before you work out. It might sound like a fun idea to offset your workout with a sweet treat beforehand, but we promise — the fun ends there. There’s nothing fun about a stomach cramp you can’t shake when you’ve made it all the way there to work out. And if you’re in a group fitness class? Forget it. The bloating and gas that comes with that combination will leave you hiding in the bathroom until the hour is over.
You don’t actually need all that protein before you work out. Protein is used for muscle building and repair. You want a small bit of this during your session to keep your muscles up and running. But really, you want the bulk of that power after you’ve created the tears in muscle fiber that promote the growth you want. The best time to refuel after a workout is within thirty minutes — that’s how long it takes for your body to start slacking on the nutrients it wants to absorb.
These snacks are touted as a solution to excess calories for one too many dieters, but in reality they offer you little to nothing in terms of nutrition. They have less than a gram of the protein you need and almost no nutritional value otherwise. All they’re doing for your diet is adding volume — adding more nutritionally empty solids for your stomach to sort through when all you want to be doing is focusing on your work out. Eat a slice of toast instead. Your body will be able to use those carbs, and it’ll help you feel supported and energized while you put in the work.
Who would have thought that a salad could be a poor choice? Counterintuitive, but true. Despite how fit and healthy they make you feel, they affect your body quite differently. Vegetables that are often in salads, such as broccoli and cabbage, are sulfurous and a common cause of flatulence. Additionally, all the fiber from lettuce and other vegetables can make you bloated and steal all your much-needed energy to digest. Eat a salad for dinner after your workout or give it a few hours before you decide to work out.
Many of these popular smoothie brands are selling you nutritional failures. They use fruit juices instead of whole fruits, removing lots of nutritional benefit from an otherwise wise choice. What you’re left with is a lot of milk and processed ingredients mixed with sugar. That’s not what any of us wanted from our “healthy” smoothie.
The serving size of trail mix is actually very small — about a handful. But when you buy a snack pack of trail mix at the drug store, it has much more trail mix than that. And let’s be real. You’re eating the whole thing.
Trail mix is basically a condensed snack: You’ve got all your calorie-dense and nutrition-dense foods in one compact serving. Those packs come with more dietary fat than your stomach is ready to handle, setting you up for some indigestion and tiredness later on.
Or overripe bananas, for that matter. Both are setting you up for tummy troubles. A banana that’s yellow and ready is a great idea. It’s got quick-digesting carbs and lots of potassium for muscle support. However, we recommend you peel carefully. The digestive consequences of consuming an under or overripe banana could be dire.
Many people are sensitive to dairy, which means that to stay on the safe side, we recommend you avoid it before working out. The protein in yogurt, of course, would be helpful — feel free to try a dairy-free alternative to jazz up your pre-workout snack.