Many of us hit the gym on an empty stomach, thinking it will force our bodies to burn accumulated fat and help us lose weight. But research has shown that this isn’t true.
In fact, hunger leads to dipping energy levels and early exhaustion. You end up exercising for lesser time and with reduced intensity, burning fewer calories. Consistently opting for a “fasting workout” will also lead to loss of muscle mass – this slows down the metabolism, taking you further away from your weight loss goal.
But that doesn’t mean you scarf down a heavy breakfast. A stomach that’s “too full” will make you sluggish.
Nutritionists say you need to follow the middle path and eat the right food at the right time so your body has the strength and staying power for a power-packed exercise session.
Here’s a list of the 8 best pre-workout foods:
Oats:A bowl of oats porridge is the perfect fuel for those who exercise in the mornings. This superfood makes one feel satiated after an overnight fast and it is loaded with carbohydrates, the main source of energy for our bodies. The high content of fibre in oats leads to a gradual release of sugar into your bloodstream, keeping your stamina level high for long.
Grilled chicken: Individuals who work out in the evenings or late at night can enjoy two pieces of succulent grilled chicken with a small helping of rice or baked potatoes on the side. While chicken is a good source of protein , brown rice and potatoes contain essential carbs that increase energy and endurance.
Sprouts: Enjoy a bowl-full of sprouts salad or chana chaat an hour before your workout. Sprouts and legumes are a rich source of protein for vegetarians and contain a decent amount of complex carbohydrates (needed for stamina).
Whole grain bread: Opt for a slice or two when you don’t have the time to cook. Whole-grain bread contains a generous dose of carbohydrates. Top it with peanut butter or honey to give you a shot of strength. But remember to eat it at least 45 minutes before gymming.
Eggs: Have a two-egg omelette liberally sprinkled with vegetables an hour or two before weight training. Add a slice of bread if you do more cardio. Eggs have the highest bioavailable protein– which signifies how efficiently a protein can be absorbed by the body – and they are yummy too.
Bananas: Experts recommend a banana every day. Nature’s granola bars are not only rich in complex digestible carbohydrates but also in potassium, which helps in maintaining nerve and muscle function. The body does not store potassium for long, so experts recommend eating a medium banana 30-45 minutes before exercising. Add half cup of yoghurt to up the protein quotient.
Caffeine: When you are in no mood to eat, savour a big mug of milk tea or coffee before heading to the gym. While milk provides a modest amount of carbohydrates and protein, research has showed that caffeine enhances your workout performance. It supplies energy to the muscles and prompts them to burn stored fat rather than carbs for energy.
Pistachios & Blueberries: If you are running late, munch on a handful of pistachios and blueberries while driving to the gym. The nuts and fruits offer a potent protein-carb combo.
Research published in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reveals that blueberries have anti-inflammatory properties, which help prevent post workout soreness due to muscle strain.
Figure out your own pre- and post-workout eating habits. A snack 40-60 minutes before the workout works well for the majority of us.
About the Author
For Sumita Thomas, good nutrition advice is less about what NOT to eat and all about HOW to eat. Armed with a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from IGNOU, Sumita has worked with multi-specialty clinics and corporate clients, planning calorie-specific menus for their cafeterias. She’s also a certified diabetes educator, has worked in cardiac nutrition and is even a TUV-certified internal auditor for food safety management systems. Maybe that’s why she ensures her advice is always scientifically sound, which makes her a perfect fit for us at HealthifyMe. Of the belief that a healthy lifestyle can be achieved with the combination of a healthy mind, body and diet, Sumita recommends setting realistic goals – one health target a day – and gradually incorporating healthy ingredients to your daily diet. Does she practice what she preaches? For sure, and ensures all those around her do too. So get set, because that now includes you!