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The Worst Food To Eat Before a Workout, Says Dietitian

Ready for a sweat sesh? Make sure to step away from this food.

Fueling your muscles properly before and after a workout is vital for your body's overall health—especially when it comes to building more muscle and increasing your metabolic rate. But if you're not careful with the type of food you have before a workout, it could make your workout less efficient—which is why it's important to learn what is the worst food to eat before a workout, so you don't have to make that mistake before your sweat sesh.

"The worst thing to eat would be any fried food," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. "It's likely to leave you feeling heavy and weighed down before a workout."

The type of food you eat does have a huge effect on your energy levels throughout the day, which is an important factor if you're trying to squeeze in a workout session. One study in the journal Sleep showed that your levels of sleepiness and alertness during the day can be affected by a poor diet—especially one with high-fat foods. Plus, studies show that eating fried food can increase your risk of major cardiovascular events, with a higher risk of heart disease and heart failure.

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Instead, Goodson recommends that for a pre-workout, the goal is to have "complex carbohydrate and lean protein a few hours before hitting the gym, court, or field."

"You want to keep this meal relatively low in fat because a high intake of fat can cause stomach and gastrointestinal distress or more during a workout," says Goodson.

What's a good pre-workout meal, and when should you eat it?

"If you are eating a meal 2 to 3 hours before a workout, a bowl with brown rice, chicken, and veggies is a great option," says Goodson. "Or a sandwich with lean protein and cheese paired with a side salad and fruit."

However, if you've recently eaten a meal and are just looking for a small pre-workout snack, finding a few smaller snacks that will help give you that complex carbohydrate and lean protein will help with fueling your body for your sweat sesh.

"If you ate a meal a few hours back and just need a pre-workout snack, try a whole grain granola bar and a string cheese, a protein bar with carbs and protein, or a slice of whole-grain bread with a little peanut butter," says Goodson. "Aim to eat this snack approximately an hour before your workout."

Along with fried foods, be sure to steer clear of these Popular Foods Proven to Destroy Your Workout, According to Experts.

Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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