In order to have the energy required for a higher intensity workout, like CrossFit, it is recommended to fuel your body prior to exercise.
Why, you ask?
- To provide your muscles with energy
- Feed your brain to promote concentration and focus.
- Helps to settle your stomach and prevent feelings of hunger midway through a workout.
- Prevents the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Symptoms of hypoglycemia include: lightheadedness, dizziness, inability to focus and fatigue which all disrupts the ability to perform.
In general, consuming a full meal 3-4 hours before exercising is ideal to allow for digestion and to empty food from the stomach. A full meal meaning it contains a mix of all macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein & fat).
- Sandwich on whole grain bread, with lean protein & a side salad
- Lean protein, ½ cup non-starchy vegetable & 1/3 cup brown rice
For workouts less than 60-90 minutes, it is okay to eat a predominantly
carbohydrate snack 1-2 hours prior to workout, because it will empty quickly from the stomach (compared to protein and fat) and will become readily available to be used by the muscles. Your muscles use the glucose from carbohydrates as fuel.
If the workout is longer, than it is a good idea to add a protein, to contribute to sustained energy or consume easy digestible carbohydrates during exercise.
Pre-Exercise Ideas (1-2 hrs prior to workout):
- -Small bag of pretzels
- A piece of fruit, such as a clementine, apple or banana
- -4oz low-fat or fat-free yogurt
- -1/2 cup granola
- Whole wheat crackers
It is important to keep in mind that the needs of everyone can differ and be individualized as to what works for them. Some foods that may be great for one person may not digest well for someone else.
As you get into a routine, you can find the foods that “work” for you. For me personally, I have found that different types of workouts may require different types of foods. For example if I have a longer run planned (3 miles or more), I personally don’t like to eat anything for 1.5 hours beforehand. To the contrary if I am going to do a workout that is less cardio and more resistance training than I can eat something small, such as a low fat greek yogurt, right up until class time.
Listen to the needs of your body. Do you get headaches after a workout? Do you feel exhausted and fatigued halfway through? Do you have hunger pains when the workout is over? Are you able to mentally focus throughout your workout?
Bottom line is that your body can only do so much without the proper tools – use FOOD as FUEL to increase performance and promote recovery!