What should I eat before I exercise?

When preparing to exercise, planning your nutrition can be the key to a successful workout.

If you are a walker, avoid walking when you are very hungry. A light snack such as a fruit or crackers can be great to fuel you lightly for a walk. Whether you choose to walk early in the morning, at a break during the day or later in the evening, what matters is that you have some energy to enjoy your walk. If you walk early in the morning, make sure to have a healthy breakfast after your walk. If you walk after dinner, you may enjoy a light snack before going to bed, such as a fruit.

If you are a jogger/runner, or do other types of vigorous activities, it is important to eat the right foods at the right time to fuel your body and avoid discomfort when exercising. Learn more about how to plan your meals for a great workout:

When to eat Eating too close to your workout time can lead to stomach aches, cramping, as well as overall gastrointestinal upset. As blood flow is pulled out of the gut and used in the exercising muscles, full digestion is difficult for our bodies to attain. Generally speaking, allowing the body at least 2 hours to digest a meal is a safe delay time.

If you enjoy exercising first thing in the morning, it is important to eat a small meal about 20 to 30 minutes before your workout. The closer you are to the time of your workout, the less you should eat because eating too close to the workout can cause you severe gastrointestinal discomfort and affect your performance.

One hour or less before exercise

If you are short on time, or feel a bit sluggish, try fresh fruit such as apples, bananas, watermelon, peaches, grapes or oranges.

Three to four hours before exercise

Properly planning your snack or meal ahead of time will provide a high level of energy, and improve your overall exercise experience. Incorporate the following into a pre-exercise snack or meal for maximum results: fresh fruit, bread, bagels, pasta with tomato sauce, cereal with milk, yogurt, toast/bread with peanut butter, lean meat, or cheese.

Always remember to drink adequate water before, during, and after any exercise session.

What to eat

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for most exercise; therefore a pre-exercise meal should include foods that are high in glucose or fructose. This includes foods such as pasta, fruits, breads, energy bars and drinks. A small amount of protein should also be included in your meal to ensure a sustained energy boost.

Foods to avoid before exercise


Avoid high fat foods before exercise, as they can be difficult to digest and remain in the stomach a long time. Meats, doughnuts, fries, potato chips, and candy bars should be avoided in a pre-exercise meal. Properly fueling your body before exercise can mean the difference between a successful, enjoyable workout, and an uncomfortable, difficult day at the gym.