If your workout session is going to be less than 90 minutes, it's better to workout at least three hours after eating to ensure all carbohydrate has been metabolized. Carbohydrate is converted into energy in ten minutes to two hours depending on how complex the carbohydrate is. Fat and Protein take longer-four to five hours. When you perform aerobic exercise, your body taps into fat stores for energy, but if you have enough carbohydrate in your stomach, your body may not use as much fat as it would had you no carbohydrate in your stomach. Your body usually has enough fat and carbohydrate stores to make it through a 90-minute workout session without needing more fuel.
If you want to eat a snack before your workout, have a protein alone or have a protein paired with a healthy fat. This may direct your body to fat stores for energy during your workout and prevent muscle loss. Protein helps to preserve, replenish, and/or repair muscle damage during your workout. Healthy fats may slow digestion to prevent hunger during your workout, lubricate joints, and aide in muscle synthesis and repair, according to Angie Burke, M.P.H., R.D. and NPC Bikini Competitor.
Examples of pre-workout snacks for sessions less than 90 minutes:
• 1 ounce lean chicken or turkey breast (protein)
• 23 raw almonds or 27 raw cashews or 49 raw pistachio kernals (protein + healthy fat)
• ½ small avocado & 1 ounce lean chicken or turkey breast (protein + healthy fat)
• 1.5 ounces salmon cooked & dry heat (protein + healthy fat)
• 2 hard boiled or scrambled egg whites & ½ small avocado (protein + healthy fat)
• 1.5 ounces lean tuna (if using canned, use ¼ light tuna canned in water) & ½ small avocado (protein + healthy fat)
If you plan to work out for 90 minutes or more, eat a carbohydrate with a protein and a healthy fat to prevent muscle break down. Fat and carbohydrate stores usually run out after about 90 minutes of exercise, so you need the extra carbohydrate for fuel to keep moving and to prevent muscle breakdown, exhaustion, and decreased cognitive function.
• 1 small apple & 23 raw almonds
• 1 small banana & 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
• 1 slice whole wheat toast & 2 tablespoons natural almond butter
• ¾ cup cooked quinoa & 7 English walnut halves
• ½ turkey or chicken breast sandwich: 1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 ounce chicken or turkey breast, & ½ small avocado. (optional: 2 lettuce leaves & 1 slice tomato)
• ½ cup oatmeal made with ¼ cup soy or almond milk or water & 12 raw almonds
***Those with abnormal blood sugars such as diabetes should consult with their physician and dietitian before starting a workout plan, always check blood sugar before and after eating, and carry a fast acting carbohydrate snack or glucose tablets.
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Jamie Yacoub, M.P.H., R.D. is a clinical dietitian with a Master's of Public Health in Nutrition She obtained her Bachelor of Science in clinical nutrition from UC Davis after four years, during which time she participated in internships in several different nutrition environments including Kaiser Permanente and Women, Infants, & Children (W.I.C.). After graduating from UC Davis, she went on to study public health nutrition at Loma Linda University where she obtained her Master's of Public Health in Nutrition. Jamie completed the community nutrition portion of her dietetic internship as an intern for a Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition. She completed both the food service and clinical portions of her dietetic internship at a top 100 hospital in the nation, where she was hired as the only clinical dietitian shortly after. Jamie now works as an outpatient clinical dietitian and is an expert in Medical Nutrition Therapy (M.N.T.) using the Nutrition Care Process (N.C.P.) including past medical history and current laboratory values as a basis of nutrition assessment.