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What NOT to Eat Before You Workout

Getting to the gym or outside for a run is challenging enough for some people, but not having the proper fuel—or worse, making poor choices for fuel—can make your workouts not only harder but less effective.

Learn about some foods to avoid, even choices that may seem healthy, before you get started in your workout so that you have the energy to make a difference in your health.

1. Leafy greens

It is important to have plenty of veggies in your diet, but when you eat certain leafy greens right before a workout, like raw kale, spinach, and broccoli, you can increase your risk of gastrointestinal issues while working out.

Philip Goglia, Ph.D., author of Turn Up The Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism, states, “Thanks to their high-fibre content, leafy green vegetables are almost guaranteed to cause abdominal distention—a.k.a. gas and bloating. If you’re in the mood for something light before your workout, swap a green salad for a green smoothie. It will go down way easier.”

2. Hummus or bean dip

While beans are a great source of protein, prepackaged bean dips and hummus tend to contain extra amounts of added oils, and they are also prone to developing mold.

Goglia states, “If you’ve personally soaked the beans prior to cooking them, then you’re releasing the mold from them, but if not…you run the risk of consuming a high-mold food that can lead to inflammation and reduction of oxygen consumption. Most athletes distance themselves from prepackaged dips of this sort for that very reason.”

If you need a quick snack, consider a few bites of low-fat cottage cheese instead, and get a great helping of satisfying protein without the excess oil.

3. Whole grain breads and muffins

Usually, ordering whole grain versions of muffins and breads is a healthy choice, this is not necessarily the case when you are gearing up for a workout. Goglia claims, “Carbs in general that are yeast-, mold-, and gluten-bound are inflammatory, meaning they hold water and cause bloating. They’re providing you with energy because they’re a sugar, but the side effects far outweigh the benefits.”

A better pre-workout choice is a white tortilla, which contains less fibre. Add some flavour with some nut butter and sliced banana, and you’ll be satisfied and have a good energy supply.

4. Raw seeds

Raw seeds are usually a great grab-and-go snack, but pause before grabbing them before your workout. Serbinski explains, “It’s all because of their fat content, which can be limited when you combine them with other foods that are lower in fibre.

Consider mixing just a teaspoon or two of your favourite see with a half cup of oatmeal. The combination of fat, protein, and carbs is the trifecta your body needs to perform at its best.”

5. Spicy foods

Eating spicy foods right before you workout can lead to cramps and heartburn, making your workout very unpleasant. Goglia states, “Foods with that much flavour and seasoning require a great deal of digestion time, setting you up for a nap rather than a heavy workout.

If you’re craving something bold and savoury, opt for some chicken or turkey jerky that is packed with protein and low in mostly everything else.” Be careful to select brands that have little added sodium, preservatives, or artificial additives.

6. Protein bars

If you must grab a protein bar for convenience, be sure that you select one that has a 50-50 balance between sugar and fat. Goglia cautions, “Don’t be fooled by crafty marketing. Unless what you’re eating tastes like salmon, chicken, or steak instead of cookies or chocolate, chances are it’s loaded with sugar and fairy dusting of some kind.”

7. Sports drinks

Even when your favourite athlete is sponsored by one of the latest energy drinks, they typically contain way too much sugar to be healthy.

Serbinski states, “Sports drinks can offer some vitamins and electrolytes, but the high sugar content goes right through your system in the blink of an eye causing you to crash later on.” It’s better to try low-sodium tomato juice and get a boost of potassium, helps with blood pressure and helps you stay properly hydrated because of a low sodium content.

To get the most out of your workout, it is important to choose the right fuel for your body. Avoid these common “healthy” choices that may be fooling you.