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Top 5 foods and drinks to avoid before workouts

Don't sabotage your exercise routine

You might be a regular at the gym, but are you eating and drinking the right things to maximize your efforts? Just as a car needs fuel to run, it’s important to properly fuel your body to sustain you during a workout.

Woman eating green apple

If you really want to get the best results from your workout sessions, here's what foods and drinks you should avoid.

1

Belly-bloating foods

Snacking on raw vegetables probably sounds like a perfect pre-workout meal. Think again. Although these foods are healthy and will fill you up, they are high in fiber and can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort mid-workout. The last thing you want at the gym is an upset stomach, so avoid reaching for items like broccoli, cabbage and other leafy greens before your workout.

2

Fast food

In a hurry and need something to eat? Avoid the temptation of fast food. Deep-fried, fatty snacks take longer to digest and can cause some serious stomach pains if eaten before a workout, not to mention slow you down. Stay away from fried, creamy or decadent foods if you want to get the most out of your next sweat session.

3

Caffeine and carbonated drinks

If you regularly rush out to grab your favorite energy drink or coffee mid-afternoon, then listen up! Sure, it might give you that much-needed boost to get through the day but did you know the excessive amounts of sugar commonly found in both can wreak havoc on your digestive system? Both the carbonation and the high levels of caffeine deplete the body of important nutrients, making you more fatigued and in many cases causing upset stomachs and bowel problems.

4

High-protein shakes and bars

When you're on the run and don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal, protein bars and shakes can make a convenient snack. Or so we think. According to the American Council on Exercise, a study conducted by ConsumerLab showed that many manufacturers label their bars incorrectly — claiming to be good for your waistline — when in reality the bars contain lots of filler ingredients and sugar.

5

Sports drinks and fruit juices

Parched? Well, you better stick to water. Sports drinks and flavored juices might claim to give you energy and replenish your electrolytes, but there is something they're hiding — the truth. While these simple carbohydrates might give you a quick boost, guzzling the sugary stuff on a regular basis could leave you tired and cause an upset stomach.

So, if fibrous vegetables and sports drinks aren't good before a workout, what is? While there might be certain items that you shouldn't have before your next trip to the gym, it doesn’t mean all food and drinks are off limits.

“If you’re having a hard time getting through your workouts or lacking energy, it may be related to the foods and drinks you’re consuming earlier in the day,” said Ryan Read, personal trainer and founder/owner of Thrive Specialized Training. “Choosing the right foods to eat before a workout will not just provide energy needed to sustain you during your workout but it will help improve performance as well.”

Before a workout

You got your workout in. Now what?

Refuel and recover with a well-balanced meal that includes protein and good carbohydrates to help muscles recover and restore energy.

Get the best fuel by consuming a small, relatively high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, low-fat meal. Read recommends these healthy options:

  • Greek yogurt and trail mix can give you the protein and carbohydrates you need without upsetting your stomach before a workout.
  • Smoothies mixed with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt are a quick and healthy option for pre-workout fuel.
  • Combine ½ a banana on toast with peanut butter for a meal that provides protein and slow-release carbohydrates that will give you energy.
  • Before your morning workout, combine oatmeal and blueberries for long-lasting energy that will quickly get you going.

Tell us

What are some of your favorite post-workout recipes?

More on health and wellness

How to eat and exercise to lose weight
Top 10 diet mistakes that prevent women from losing weight

Snacking around workouts: Do's and don'ts

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