What Fitness Pros Eat … Before a Workout

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In the ongoing debate of whether to eat before exercising, some people believe (and some research shows) working out on an empty stomach helps you burn more fat. Others swear by fueling their tank before hitting the gym. It’s a personal decision so long as your workout is 90 minutes or less — anything longer, and you should really eat. But what you eat can make the difference between setting a personal record and hitting the proverbial wall.

For some pre-exercise eating inspiration, we polled seven fitness professionals to see what they eat before working out. Their picks vary, but all have one thing in common: energy-giving carbs.

So, before you go for a run or start a heavy lifting session, consider one of these pre-workout snacks:

“I tend to workout with resistance weights or do HIIT. This means that my main energy store being used is carbs and glycogen. So it’s important to get some quick-digesting carbs into my system in the form of simple sugars.”
— Cristian Plascencia, senior durability coach at Onnit Academy

“I have to credit my friend Elise Museles, an eating psychology coach and nutrition expert, for inspiring me to make my own homemade energy bars (rolled oats, almonds, almond butter, medjool dates, dried cranberries and raw cacao). They are incredibly easy to whip up in a food processor and contain a mix of carbs, protein and healthy fat for energy on-the-go. The addition of cacao powder delivers a major antioxidant boost as well.”
— Liz Arch, yoga instructor and founder of Primal Yoga

“I don’t eat this all the time, but it’s one of my favorites, so I try to sneak it in a couple times a week. The whole-wheat bread and fruit jam give me a mix of complex and simple carbs for energy, and the peanut butter supplies some protein. Plus, it just tastes good.”
— Chris Coggins, high school track coach and private running coach

“If I have a good amount of time post-breakfast prior to my workout, my go-to is the Peanut Butter Perfect Bar. The natural sugar gives me some added energy, and there are enough carbs to spare the protein to rebuild and repair my muscles.”
— Liz Terry, certified personal trainer and core instructor at Lync Cycling

“A banana and a handful of almonds gives me just the right amount of food and calories to keep my stomach from getting upset with all my movement on the bike.”
— Jasmine Zutter, owner and spin instructor at Class Studios

“In a pinch, I can go to a protein bar, but on most days, I try to stay with nuts like walnuts, pistachios, cashews and my favorite, almonds.”
— Michael Piercy, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner and founder of The Lab

“I always work out in the morning, so my breakfast is also my pre-workout. I’ll start with a banana (I freeze them ahead of time to thicken the shake) and lactose-free milk. From there, I add a scoop of whey protein powder that has 30 grams of protein, plus whatever berries I have in my fridge — usually blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. It tastes good, it’s not overly filling, and all those berries are loaded with antioxidants. I also take a turmeric supplement each morning because it fights inflammation.”
— Matthew Martin, certified personal trainer and CrossFit Coach



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