I get asked a lot how I fuel before workouts and my short answer is “It depends.” The longer answer is below.
I gravitate towards a balance of protein & fat for lifting/CrossFit workouts. I typically eat a couple scrambled eggs or hard boiled eggs before I head out the door. If I’m really ambitious that week, I’ll make some energy balls to have on hand. I LOVE these tahini energy balls before class; 1-2 is a perfect amount for me. Sometimes I just eat a spoonful of nut butter too. I definitely need fuel before a CrossFit workout, and I find that the warm-up gives my stomach time to digest these options so my food isn’t sitting heavy when I’m doing wall balls or box jumps.
Before Running (4-6 miles)
I rarely eat anything before my mid-week morning runs of 4-6 miles. I usually just have coffee and water and head out the door. If I’m feeling a little weak and tired, I may eat 1/2 a banana, a few fresh figs, a few bites of overnight oatmeal, scrambled eggs or energy balls if I have some around. I just listen to my body in the mornings and pay attention to how my run goes and learn from it. There are supposedly benefits to “fasted cardio” (it’ll burn fat more easily), but I don’t eat mostly because I just can’t stomach it first thing. I know I know, I could wake up earlier but you know that ain’t happening.
Last week I had a morning run that was a perfect example of paying attention and learning. I had a pretty light dinner the night before, and thought I would probably need to eat something before I ran, but I didn’t because I didn’t have any of my options listed above around. My energy levels totally crashed 2 miles in.
Before Running (7+ miles)
When I’m doing longer runs, I have to fuel up pre-run with more than just coffee. This requires getting up a little bit earlier since I need time for my food to digest – at least 30 minutes. This works well if I’m driving somewhere to run; if I’m headed straight from my houses, I have to plan for it. I like these Chocolate Oat Energy Bars, a slice of gluten-free banana bread, or Mesa Sunrise gluten-free cereal with a banana before longer runs. If I don’t have any of that around, I’ll eat a banana with nut butter, scrambled eggs and gluten-free toast, or a microwaved sweet potato drizzled with coconut oil.
I can’t have anything in my stomach before yoga or I feel awful the entire time. I typically do yoga in the evening, so I try to eat something 1.5 – 2 hours before class so it has plenty of time to digest. So, if I’m doing a 6:30 PM class, I’ll have a snack around 4:30. Anything that sounds good at the time works since I give my body so much time to digest it. I just don’t want to go into class having not eaten since lunchtime. If I’m doing yoga in the AM, I’ll have something easy to digest, like 1/2 banana, as soon as I wake up.
Before Pure Barre
Pure Barre could not be more different than CrossFit, but I fuel for it the same way – a little protein and fat combo. Nuts, eggs, and energy balls are all favorite go-to’s before Pure Barre. But I have to make sure I have a solid 30-45 minutes for any food to digest before Pure Barre because the warm-up is HARD. You get right to work, right away vs. the warm-up for CrossFit is more low-key and eases you into the workout. If I’m doing Pure Barre in the morning, I stay away from whole nuts as a snack since they can sit heavy. Energy balls and nut butter seem to be okay if I keep the portion small.
If I could pick only two foods to keep on hand for pre-workout snacks, it’s be eggs and bananas. It sounds strange but I do really well with scrambled or hard boiled eggs before a workout, and when I need more carbs, bananas are a cheap, portable, easy to digest option.