What to eat before a workout

Learn why eating the right combination of foods before exercising can help you get the most from a workout.
Woman drinking a smoothie
It's a common refrain - food is fuel - and just as you'd be sure to fill up your car's petrol tank before a road trip, it's important to make sure your body has the right fuel to sustain you during a workout.

Fuel your body
"Proper nutrition is the key to consistency and longevity when exercising, which will help your body get more from a workout," explains personal trainer Warren Friendland. So, what should you eat before going for a run or heading to the gym? "A relatively high-carb, moderate-protein, low-fat meal is best to consume before exercise," says dietitian Suzette Kroll.

What to avoid
High-fat foods - or large quantities of any food - should be avoided just before working out because they won't digest well during exercise. Kroll recommends waiting at least two hours after a meal before exercising to allow time for your body to process the nutrients.

Protein bars
If you're squeezing a workout into a busy schedule, you may be tempted to grab a protein bar, but neither Kroll nor Friedland recommends this shortcut. Most bars are "glorified snack bars, often providing more kilojoules," says Kroll. Also, many of the bars contain more protein than your body needs from a single snack.

Best food combos before a workout
Low-fat yoghurt with a banana
Fruit and skim milk smoothie
Small chicken or turkey sandwich on wholegrain bread
Chopped apple mixed with low-fat ricotta cheese (try sprinkling with cinnamon)
Hard-boiled egg
Half a sweet potato topped with low-fat cottage cheese and a spoonful of salsa
After your workout
Don't forget that it's important to eat well after your workout. "When hunger arises and it's time for your next meal or snack, a mixed meal containing carbohydrates, protein and good fat is best", advises Kroll.

Post-workout suggestions
Poached egg on wholegrain toast
A wholemeal wrap filled with beans, salsa and 1 tbs low-fat cheese
Stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice
Wholegrain pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
Oats with skim milk and fruit
What about water?
Of course, the right foods alone won't get you through a workout - you'll also need to maintain proper hydration as you exercise. Remember in most cases water is your best choice for hydration. The Weight Watchers Good Health Guidelines recommend at least eight glasses of fluid each day.