This morning I took a great yoga class. For those of you who know or enjoy yoga – it was vinyasa flow. Early in the class, the instructor said, “I hope everyone enjoyed a nice breakfast.” It was a completely random comment – and the first yoga class I’ve ever taken where the instructor kicks off class by talking about a breakfast. Maybe she was hungry. Nonetheless, it got me thinking about eating and working out!

WHEN to Eat Before a Workout
Until I started taking yoga classes regularly over the summer, for years my workouts were almost entirely running and some form of cycling with strength training peppered in throughout the week. I was pretty careful about when I ate for two good reasons:

1) Energy: When food is digested in your stomach, blood is shunted to that region of your body to help with digestion. More oxygen-rich blood in the abdominal region means less in the extremities. If you feel sluggish after a big meal, this is part of the reason why. It’s generally a good idea to wait between two and three hours after a meal before working out.  If you’re just having a small snack (such as a banana), you should be safe to workout in less than an hour.

2) Digestion: Not giving your body enough time to digest food, especially shortly before high-impact exercises, such as running or kick boxing, can be a little uncomfortable, to say the least.

WHAT to Eat Before a Workout
What you eat also plays a role in how well your workout will go. Whether you’re an afternoon, morning or evening exercises, the foods you eat in the hours before a workout need to be fairly easy to digest. Proteins and fats tend to take longer to breakdown, which is meals should be primarily carbohydrates before a workout. A few of my favorite go-to pre-workout meals include:

  • Oatmeal (old fashioned, not instant) with blueberries or chopped apple, low fat milk, a tablespoon of almond nut butter and cinnamon
  • English Muffin (I love Ezekiel) with low fat cottage cheese and cinnamon
  • Yogurt Smoothie with plain low fat yogurt, berries or bananas, a few almonds and cinnamon

Tip: Add cinnamon to add flavor and to help control blood sugar levels!

Other ideas for pre-workout meals that give plenty of healthy carbs, and enough protein and fat include:

  • Turkey Sandwich on whole grain bread with low fat cheese, mustard and tomato.
  • Whole Grain Pita with hummus or olive tapenade and sliced cucumber.
  • Scrambled egg burrito on a whole grain tortilla (add sea salt or mustard for flavor). No like tortillas? Try a scrambled egg on a whole grain English muffin!

Starving, but need to workout in an hour? Here are a couple simple, but healthy snacks that fit the bill:

  • Banana and a small handful of walnuts
  • Small orange and slice of string cheese
  • Handful of homemade trail mix (almonds, raisins or dried cherries, coconut flakes and a little sea salt)

Tip: Lactose intolerant? Milk products add some good protein and a little bit of fat. If you can’t have anything with lactose, try substituting natural nuts or nut butters instead.

WHEN to Eat During a Workout
Your body should have enough in the tank to take you through 90 minutes of continuous exercise. You should not need to reach for an energy bar or drink during a workout unless you did not eat beforehand, or you’re getting in a really long workout (think 10 mile+ run, etc).  After your workout is over, shoot for a healthy meal that’s has more protein to help rebuild the muscle you’ve broken down during your workout.

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