A common question I receive is whether one should eat prior to exercise. First of all, it goes without saying that eating a balanced diet consisting of multiple meals (about 4 – 6) throughout the day is essential to keeping your body fueled and ready for action. Although everyone is different, the digestion of a regular meal can take up to 4 hours, so you should allow plenty of time to digest a meal before engaging in physical activity. However, you may consider having a small snack about 30 to 90 minutes prior to exercise for the following reasons:
- provides additional fuel for prolonged stamina
- helps decrease exercise induced breakdown of muscle protein, thus, preserving lean muscle tissues
- may prevent the distracting symptoms of hunger
- helps avert symptoms from low blood sugar which can include dizziness, nausea, and headaches
Preferably, a pre-exercise snack should consist of 200-400 calories including mostly carbohydrates (about 60%) with some amount of fat and protein.
Choose carbohydrates that are easily digested such as pasta, fruits, breads, energy bars and drinks.
You can find examples of some pre-exercise meals at the following link: