What to eat before physical activity
I am often asked, « What do you recommend I eat before going for a run? » Truth be told, there are several answers depending on the time span between the meal and the planned physical activity.
3 to 4 hours before the activity
In this case, we suggest you eat a « regular » meal. By this we mean, a meal that ressembles the Healthy Eating Plate and offers 500 to 800 calories. This would include carbs (bread, pasta, rice), protein (fish, eggs, cheese), and vegetables. You can also include a moderate amount of a healthy fat such as olive oil.
Source : www.hsph.harvard.edu
In order to avoid gastro-intestinal issues, consider your intolerance to certain foods. For example, if you react badly to cabbage or to legumes, we suggest you avoid consuming them prior to the planned activity.
2 to 3 hours before the activity
Limit your fat intake, reduce proteins and favour carbs. Aim for 200 to 500 calories comprised of 8 to 12g of protein and 30g to 75g of carbs.
- Greek yogurt + frozen berries
- Whole wheat cereal + milk
- Crackers + cheese
- Cottage cheese + fruit
- Smoothie : blend of milk, yogurt and fruit
1 hour before the activity
Limit yourself between 100 and 200 calories comprised of at least 30g to 45g of carbs.
- ½ bagel with small quantity of cream cheese
- 1 English muffin +jam
- Whole wheat toast + ½ banana + <1 teaspoon peanut butter
- Oatmeal + milk + fruit
30 minutes before the activity
At this point, we recommend you stick to 50 to 100 calories almost entirely made up of carbs (approximately 15g – 25g).
- 1 cereal bar
- 1 medium size fruit : apple, pear
- ½ banana
- 1 cup fruit : blueberries, strawberries, watermelon
- ½ cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 2 small fruits : 2 tangerines, 2 kiwis
- 30ml dried fruit : raisins, cranberries
You can use a calorie counter, such as « My Fitness Pal », to keep track of your calorie, fat, carb and protein intake.
We also suggest you apply the same method for your meal and snack combinations as you would for your workouts. In time, you will find the combo that works best for you. If you are participating in a sporting event, it is strongly suggested that you not try any new combo on the day of the competition. Best to stick to what you know and what works for you.
How about you? What’s your ideal snack?
Ledoux, Marielle, et al. Nutrition, Sport Et Performance. VéÌo Québec, 2009.