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February 17, 2019: Eating Before Exercise

My weekly Get Your Stuff Together Sunday email series gives you one actionable focus for the week that will make your life a little easier.

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Did you know that if you don’t eat before you exercise, you decrease your body’s capability to maximize fat burning? This week, we’re going to talk about what you can eat before exercising to give you plenty of energy and make your workout the best it can be.

Think about this, most high-level performance athletes will consume their biggest meals before a training session, to ensure they have a full energy source to pull from during their workout, allowing a maxim training intensity, and the higher the training intensity, the higher their caloric burn will be through the end of the day. This will work for you too, my non-pro-athlete friend.

Macronutrients for Success

To maximize your workout performance and recovery (essentially, the overall effectiveness of all that work), it's important to fuel your body with the right macronutrients before a workout. Those are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. You’ll want to combine carbs, protein, and fat into a snack that’s now more than 200 calories.

Carbohydrates - Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel. Studies have consistently shown that eating carbs before your workout can increase glycogen stores and utilization, helping with your energy levels especially in short bursts of high-intensity exercise.

Protein - Though carbs are most important for your workout, many studies have found that eating protein before a workout improves athletic performance. Adding protein to your pre-workout carbohydrates can lead to greater strength increases and, eventually, changes in body composition (compared to eating carbs alone).

Fat - Fat helps fuel your body for longer, less intense workouts. It is your main energy source for workouts like walking, cycling, and similar exercise.

Pre-workout meals can be eaten three hours to 30 minutes before a workout. However, choose foods that are easy to digest, especially if your workout starts in one hour or less. Avoid high fiber items that may cause some stomach distress.

Pre-Workout Snack Examples

It’s most important eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise. There should be a little fat in your snack, but if you are eating a higher-fat protein, like cheese or whole milk, have it an hour before your workout to digest a bit.

Here are some options:

  • Greek yogurt and fruit

  • Nutrition bar with protein, like Quest or ThinkThin (my favorites)

  • An apple with peanut butter

  • Nuts and dried fruit

  • Cheese and whole-grain crackers

  • Protein shake

Next Sunday, we’ll talk about heart health.

Do you have a friend who could stand to G(her)ST? Feel free to forward this!

I hope you have a wonderful week,


Kelly Morgan, Ph.D.

Tsirona -

My weekly GYSTS email give you one actionable thing to do for the week that will make you life a little easier. As "they" say, "Fail to plan; plan to fail." Get these emails (and more!) delivered right to your inbox by clicking HERE.