Remember the quality of your overall diet is key for strong performance during your exercise sessions. While your pre-exercise meal is an important component, it cannot make up for deficits in your overall diet. Your pre-exercise meal provides you with energy and hydration for the exercise session ahead and enables you to get the most out of your session. Timing your pre-exercise meal and choosing appropriate foods will help you ensure that the food is digested, absorbed and available to use while you’re exercising and avoid unwanted stomach upsets or hunger pangs.
When should I eat before exercise?
The quantity and type of food will affect how long it takes to digest. There are also individual variations in digestion times from person to person, and even within the same person on different days. As a guide, have a meal about 2-4 hours before exercise or a lighter snack 1-2 hours before exercise.
What should I eat before exercise?
Ensure that your pre-exercise meal or snack contains carbohydrate to fuel your body. Carbohydrates are found in a range of healthy foods including bread, grains, cereals, some vegetables, fruit, milk and yoghurt. Note that foods high in fat, protein and fibre take longer to digest.
Meal ideas for 2-4 hours before exercise:
- Breakfast cereal with milk
- Fruit salad with yoghurt
- Toast with jam/honey and a glass of milk (flavoured or plain)
- Baked beans on toast
- Sandwich with cheese/lean meat and a piece of fruit
- Pasta or rice with a low fat sauce (e.g. tomato)
Snack ideas for 1-2 hours before exercise:
- Fruit smoothie or milkshake
- Small bowl breakfast cereal with milk
- Fruit-flavoured yoghurt
- Low fat muesli bar
What should I drink before exercise?
Water is an ideal drink to have before your exercise session. Hydrate in the time leading up to your session rather than consuming a large amount just before starting exercise – this allows your body time to absorb the fluid and avoids the need to go to the toilet not long after beginning your training. In most cases, sports drinks are not required unless you are having your pre-exercise snack less than 1 hour before starting exercise. In this case a sports drink will provide you with carbohydrates that are quickly digested in time for your session.