Yes, it seems counterintuitive, but those leafy greens and chopped veggies aren’t ideal pre-workout. They equal a lot of water and fiber but not a lot of protein, carbs, or calories—and you need adequate amounts of those to push through your workout, says Bonci.
This veggie’s star has been on the rise thanks to its cancer-fighting properties and other benefits. But members of the Brassica family including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are known to cause bloating and gas due to an indigestible sugar called raffinose. Because GI distress can hamper even the most committed gym goer, it’s best to save these veggies for after you hit the showers.
While foods with low- to no-cal sugar substitutes are tempting when you’re trying to shed pounds, they’re a bad idea pre-workout: They’re another substance that can cause gas and bloating. What’s more, says Bonci, it’s a myth that sugar before a workout is terrible. It provides quick energy, she says, and you’re less likely to suffer a post-sugar energy dip: “Exercise activates hormones that help prevent a blood sugar crash.” Just don’t go crazy. “Sugar takes longer to leave the stomach, so if you eat a concentrated source of carbs like candy, you’ll run into problems.”
Stick with the familiar
Another good rule to follow when fueling up: Now is not the time to get creative or try something new. “It’s best to stick with a pre-exercise meal that the body is used to,” says Pritchett. That way, you won’t have any unexpected side effects and your body can function at its optimal levels.
What really works
So what makes a good pre-workout snack? Bonci likes to aim for a mix of carbs, protein, and a touch of healthy fats—all of it 200 calories or less. Some of her go-tos include a six-inch tortilla thinly spread with dark chocolate, peanut butter, and half of a sliced banana; she also likes a smoothie made with half a cup of fruit, soy milk, yogurt, and a smear of nut butter. “Liquids like smoothies leave the stomach more quickly, which means they get energy to the rest of your body faster.” Regardless of what sounds most delicious and nutritious to you, just make sure you eat something before you exercise. “Even if you’re trying to lose weight, exercising on an empty stomach is not as efficient because you can’t work out up to your potential,” Bonci says. Plus, you’re likely to be hungrier as a result and overdo it at your next meal.