Foods to Avoid Prior to Exercise

By Kay Ireland

Proper nutrition can make or break a workout. Eat the right foods and you'll power through exercise with plenty of energy to spare. Eat the wrong foods and you could be short on energy and even make yourself sick. By knowing which foods to avoid before the gym, you'll make sure that your meals and snacks help -- not hurt -- your workouts.

Fatty Foods

While you might be craving a burger before the gym -- hey, you'll exercise off the calories, right? -- indulging in fatty foods is never a good idea before exercise. Fat in the digestive system can result in a gassy, bloated feeling, according to Bloating and gassiness can make you seriously uncomfortable during a workout, so it's best to reach for lighter fare and save the greasy foods for a once-in-a-while splurge.

High-Protein Snacks

Some protein bars and shakes are marketed as pre-workout products, but it's important that you read labels before you consume them. While protein can give you long-lasting energy, it doesn't digest quickly. If a snack is high in protein but lacks complex carbs, you might end up feeling hungry during your workout. If you want to eat a protein bar, look for one that contains carbs as well -- they'll give you quick-burning energy while the protein digests.

High-Fiber Foods

Eating a huge salad seems like a good idea before exercise, especially because it's light and won't leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Unfortunately, high-fiber foods have a more unpleasant side effect, centering around the fact that fiber pass through the digestive system fairly quickly. What seemed like a light meal can have you racing for the bathroom when you're trying to power through a workout.

Sugar and Caffeine

You might need a quick energy boost before exercise, which is why you might reach for a caffeinated energy drink or a handful of candy. But beforehand, consider this: Caffeine and sugar provide you with a quick burst of energy, but both can leave you feeling fatigued after that initial burst, warns Columbia University Health Services. Skip the drinks and candy for something healthier and your energy levels can stay higher longer.

Proper Timing

Just about any food can be a disruption if you eat it at the wrong time. When you're planning exercise, try finishing any large meal at least two to three hours in advance to give your body time to digest the food before you crank up the intensity. If you feel hungry before you work out, try a light snack that combines protein with complex carbs, like a banana and peanut butter or a few slices of cheese and wheat crackers. That way, your food becomes a helper -- not a hindrance -- to your exercise success.

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