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You can stay within the scope of your practice when giving clients nutritional advice on what to eat pre workout. Nourishing bodies properly will keep clients’ energy levels up and allow them to perform to the best of their ability during each workout. 

“What should I eat before my workout?” It’s a common question from clients, especially those getting started with a regular exercise program. The equally important question they may not be asking is, “what foods should I avoid pre workout?” In general we advise that no food is off limits, but timing is everything!  Paired with a comprehensive nutrition program, the right foods in the right combinations before a workout can energize and sustain clients in their exercise efforts and the wrong foods can hinder performance. 

Nutrition to Support an Effective Exercise Program

The foundation of any effective exercise program is nutrition. The best meal plan is built around healthful ingredients like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and low fat dairy as well as adequate hydration. Expert eating plans are tailored to provide adequate calories and macronutrients based on lifestyle, training intensity and duration. 

Pre-workout nutrition makes certain foods and their macronutrients in this meal plan work in your client’s favor to support his or her efforts. The best pre-workout snack or meal should be high in carbohydrates with smaller amounts of protein and fat. This combination delivers sustained energy throughout the workout helping your clients excel in your training program. This macronutrient formula is not always simple for clients to follow, as it is for the seasoned fitness professional.  Often foods that may seem like a healthy and smart choice can prove disastrous to your clients’ efforts when consumed just before a workout.  

While staying within your scope of practice when it comes to specific nutrition advice, guide clients to avoid these foods, some of the worst things to eat before a workout: 

High Fiber Foods = Digestion Difficulty

In general, fiber as part of a healthy diet is a very good thing. Not only has it been shown to help with weight management, high-fiber foods have also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and more. With that said, high-fiber foods have no place in your clients’ pre-workout meals. Foods such as vegetables, many fruits and even whole grains are more difficult for the body to digest. This can lead to discomfort during workouts as the body tries to multitask. Instead, suggest easily digestible fruit such as bananas or whole-grain products such as wheat toast and crackers as a pre-workout snack for essential energy-boosting carbohydrates without the discomfort. 

High-Fat Foods = Missing Energy

Have you ever tried to workout after eating a high-fat meal? Chances are your workout felt especially long and tiring. Converting fats into energy is a much lengthier process than turning carbohydrates into energy. As a result, pre-workout meals and snacks high in fat tend to sit in the stomach resulting in lethargy or sluggishness as the body works to break down those fats. Good fats are a must for an effective nutrition program, but even those in high amounts before a workout are a bad strategy for readily available energy. 

High-Sugar Foods = Disappearing Energy

Clients can now find extensive options for grab and go pre-workout snacks. From smoothies to bars to shakes, these quick and easy options can seem like a simple choice for busy clients. Often the dark side of these, (even many homemade pre-workout snacks) is high levels of sugar. This sweet little carbohydrate provides a quick rush of energy but is so quickly processed by the body that energy disappears, usually long before the workout ends. Clients should be advised to look closely at labels to avoid high-sugar options that will send blood sugar and energy on a roller coaster ride.  

Setting Clients up for Success

 Guide clients to make the best pre-workout snack choices such as: 

  • Nonfat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
  • Hardboiled eggs and wheat toast
  • Peanut butter and banana with whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain bagel with tomato and low-fat cheese 

Encourage clients to avoid foods that may derail their workout such as high-fiber, high-fat and high-sugar options.  


Nutrition and healthy eating.  Mayo Clinic.  Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/fiber/ART-20043983?p=1 

El Bacha, T., Luz, M. & Da Poian, A. (2010) Dynamic Adaptation of Nutrient Utilization in Humans. Nature Education 3(9):8. Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/dynamic-adaptation-of-nutrient-utilization-in-humans-14232807

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