Eating and exercise: 5 tips to maximize your workouts

Knowing when and what to eat can make a difference in your workouts. Understand the connection between eating and exercise.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Eating and exercise go hand in hand. When and what you eat can be important to how you feel when you exercise, whether it's a casual workout or training for a competition. Consider these eating and exercise tips.

1. Eat a healthy breakfast

If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. Most of the energy you got from dinner the previous night is used up by morning, and your blood sugar might be low. If you don't eat, you might feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise.

If you plan to exercise within an hour after breakfast, eat a light breakfast or drink something to raise your blood sugar, such as a sports drink. Emphasize carbohydrates for maximum energy.

Good breakfast options include:

  • Whole-grain cereals or bread
  • Low-fat milk
  • Juice
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt
  • A waffle or pancake

And remember, if you normally have coffee in the mornings, a cup before your workout is probably OK. Also know that anytime you try a food or drink for the first time before a workout, you risk an upset stomach.

2. Size matters

Be careful not to overdo it when it comes to how much you eat before exercise. The general guideline:

  • Large meals. Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising.
  • Small meals. Eat these two to three hours before exercising.
  • Small snacks. Eat these an hour before exercising.

Eating too much before you exercise can leave you feeling sluggish. Eating too little might not give you the energy to keep you feeling strong throughout your workout.

3. Snack well

Most people can eat small snacks right before and during exercise. The key is how you feel. Do what works best for you. Snacks eaten soon before exercise probably won't give you added energy, but they can help keep up your blood sugar and prevent distracting hunger pangs. Good snack options include:

  • Energy bars
  • Bananas or other fresh fruit
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Whole-grain bagel or crackers
  • Low-fat granola bars
  • Peanut butter sandwiches

A healthy snack is especially important if you plan a workout several hours after a meal.

Feb. 21, 2014 See more In-depth

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