9 Foods to NEVER Eat Before a Workout
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These are 9 foods that may lead to gas, bloating, heartburn, and low energy during your workout.
Although everyone is different, certain pre-workout foods can affect you in a better way helping you build muscle and burn fat.
Learn exactly what you should never eat before a workout to be sure that you’re performing optimally.
Eating certain foods before your workout can make you feel full of energy, stronger, and can highly improve your performance.
But eating the wrong foods can make you feel sick, sluggish, weak, and can definitely end up ruining your workout.
Even though everyone is different, some of us with stronger digestive systems than others, there are still some broad categories of foods that are more likely to create problems.
These include indigestion, acid reflux, and bloating, all of which can have negative effects on your energy levels.
So today I want to go over these foods that you want to be careful of having before your workout.
#1 Greasy, high-fat food
This category includes foods like cheeseburgers, potato chips, and foods high in dressings or mayo like potato salad. But it’s not limited to unhealthy foods.
Even high-fat foods like avocados can cause problems for many people.
These kinds of high-fat foods require a lot of time to digest.
That’s because fat slows down digestion and gastric emptying. This is essentially how long it takes for food to exit your stomach and enter the intestine.
Working out with a full stomach can make you feel sick, uncomfortable, nauseous and, most of all, tired.
When you eat a really filling, high-fat meal what you’ll usually notice is that your energy levels will go down and you may even start to get sleepy.
This is because a lot of your energy is devoted to digesting the high-fat meal you ate. It’s very hard to be active while your body is working hard to digest dietary fat.
The more fat is in your meal the longer that meal will typically take to digest.
Now if you’re someone that has a strong, healthy digestive system, it might be enough to just wait one or two hours before your workout, but for others, it can take even longer.
So, try to never eat greasy food before a workout.
You’re better off positioning your high-fat meals at other times of the day.
#2 Cruciferous vegetables
Consuming cruciferous vegetables before working out is a very common mistake many people make.
That’s because vegetables in general are, rightfully, considered a healthy choice.
So, it would make sense to have vegetables before your workout, right? Well, not exactly.
Even though you can eat certain kinds of vegetables that won’t give you problems, you want to look out for cruciferous vegetables during your pre-workout meal.
These include vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts.
Even though they are very healthy and should generally be part of your diet, they are also very high in fiber and difficult to digest.
Specifically, cruciferous vegetables contain a sugar known as raffinose. This sugar will stay undigested until the bacteria in your gut ferment it.
Unfortunately, this fermentation process produces gas and makes you feel bloated.
This can be very uncomfortable, especially if you’re doing a cardio-based workout where you’re bouncing up and down a lot.
Just imagine being bloated while jogging or while doing burpees, for instance.
#3 Beans and legumes
For the same reasons that you don’t want to have cruciferous vegetables before your workout, you’ll probably also be better off avoiding beans and legumes.
Naturally, this includes products that are made from them, like hummus.
Beans and legumes contain sugars and fiber that are complex to digest.
For example, just one cup of cooked beans provides about 15 grams of fiber. That’s about half the total daily recommended amount of fiber.
Now, make no mistake. Fiber is very healthy for you and it can help you lose weight.
Fiber is necessary for optimal bowel movements, it helps prevent constipation, and helps you feel full.
But fiber from beans gets to the large intestine unaltered, where it’s digested by healthy bacteria, and that process can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort like gas, bloating, and flatulence.
#4 Acidic foods
Another broad category of foods that you want to limit before your workout is foods that are likely to cause acid reflux and heartburn.
Citrus juices like orange juice can create a lot of problems for many people due to their acidity.
Some people can experience heartburn from drinking or eating limes, lemons, and grapefruits as well.
Tomatoes and tomato juices are also closely linked to heartburn. This category includes sauces and soups that are made with tomatoes like marinara sauce, tomato soup, and even ketchup.
Again, a small amount of ketchup may not affect you at all, meanwhile, it can trigger heartburn for others, especially while working out.
Another one that can potentially create heartburn is chocolate.
Chocolate is a combination of fat, caffeine, and cocoa. I’ve already mentioned that fatty foods before a workout aren’t a good idea, but cocoa also happens to be acidic which can lead to heartburn as well during a workout.
The major culprit in this category is high-fat dairy, like whole milk and cheese.
Many sources of dairy, in general, are digested slowly even if they’re fat-free.
Milk also undergoes a unique digestion process in the stomach. Your stomach will use gastric acid and enzymes to break down protein and digest the milk.
This makes proteins in the milk unravel and it expands the milk into a thick partially-solid substance.
This makes having a big bowl of milk and cereal not necessarily the best pre-workout choice.
Not only will it sit in your stomach for a while, but it may also take some time before you realize just how full you are from the milk essentially expanding in your stomach over time.
A small amount of milk before your workout used in something like a protein shake won’t really create a problem. But having lots of dairy definitely can.
Also, about 68% of the world is lactose intolerant. Many people don’t even realize that they have lactose intolerance.
If you are one of those people, dairy can create all kinds of other digestive issues that you don’t want to deal with during your workout.
Obviously, overconsuming alcohol can disrupt your balance, coordination, and increase your pain threshold.
This is a perfect combination for an injury if you decide to work out after drinking alcohol.
However, aside from that alcohol also stimulates a lot of acid production in your stomach.
While doing this it also relaxes the valve of your stomach sphincter. This is a muscle that opens and then closes to prevent food and acid in your stomach from coming back up.
If this valve is relaxed and you have a lot of acid in your stomach, you’ll likely experience acid reflux during and after your workout.
Alcohol also slows fat loss and makes it harder to gain muscle mass. So, you definitely don’t want to position alcohol anywhere near your workouts.
#7 Fried and processed foods
Foods like French fries, fried chicken, and onion rings definitely don’t help with your workout performance.
Fried foods in general are tough on the stomach. They’ll take much longer to digest, which will weigh you down and make you feel tired.
Processed ingredients that are found in many foods can also lead to the same lethargic effect, as well as heartburn.
So, not only are these foods bad for the waistline in general, but they’re also some of the worst things you can eat before your workout.
#8 Raw eggs
This is something that I’m hoping most of you aren’t having. But it’s still worth pointing out that raw eggs before a workout are not a good idea.
This is a long-standing myth popularized by Hollywood movies, where people would believe that raw eggs could help you build muscle better than cooked eggs.
But the truth is that you actually end up taking in less protein from raw eggs than you do with cooked ones.
Your body can absorb around 90% of the protein found in cooked eggs whether they’re sunny side up, scrambled, or over easy.
But if you have them raw, you’ll only be able to absorb about 50% of the protein.
This also doesn’t factor in major digestion issues that can come up after drinking raw eggs, or salmonella.
For a lower, 50% absorption rate, it just makes no sense to risk food poisoning.
#9 Pastries and desserts
Last but not least, you’ll want to avoid pastries, desserts, and other foods that are high in refined sugar.
Things like donuts, cake, and cookies will usually contain a lot of butter, cream, or chocolate in addition to the sugar.
All of these contain high amounts of refined flour and sugar which aren’t going to give you the long-lasting energy that you’re looking for.
Foods that are very high in sugar will typically raise blood glucose levels faster than slower-digesting carbohydrates. And that boost doesn’t last long either.
That’s why you may feel ready to take a nap not long after having dessert.
There are much better options for healthy pre-workout carbs that can give you far more energy, consistently throughout your workout, without hurting your waistline.
So those are 9 food groups that you may want to limit or avoid entirely before a workout.
Remember, since everyone is different some might have an issue with eating any of these before a workout, while others can eat all of them with far fewer side effects.
So, if you’re currently having one or more of these foods before your workout and you’ve noticed some negative effects at the gym, then try avoiding them and see if it improves your workouts.
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My passion for fitness began when I was 14 years old. I naturally fell in love with training and haven’t stopped since. At 18 years I acquired my first personal training certification from ACE after which I opened my first of 3 transformation studios in 2011. I love to share my knowledge through personal training, my online courses, and youtube channel now with over 3,000,000 subscribers! I can happily say that we've helped over 15,000 people get in great shape over the years. I'm always here for my customers so if you need help don't hesitate to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org