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What to eat before physical activity

August 31, 2017 - By Nautilus Plus

Temps de lecture 3 minutes

Nutritionists are 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. There should be at least 3 food groups from the Healthy Eating Plate (carbohydrates, proteins, fruit and vegetables). For example, carbohydrates could include bread, pasta and rice, while proteins could include fish, eggs, cheese and, finally, your choice of vegetables. You can also include a moderate amount of a healthy fat such as olive oil.

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. We are therefore targeting 2 groups on our balanced plate: carbohydrates (30g to 75g) and proteins (8 to 12g).

  • 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 to only 1 group of the Healthy Eating Plate: carbohydrates (at least 30g to 45g of carbs).

  • ½ bagel with small quantity of cream cheese
  • 1 English muffin +jam
  • Whole wheat toast + ½ banana + peanut butter
  • Oatmeal + milk + fruit

30 minutes before the activity

At this point, we recommend sticking mainly to carbohydrates (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

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. So you’ll have your own personalized list of “what to eat before” depending on the time of day. 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?


  • Harvard T. H. CHAN
  • Ledoux, Marielle, et al. Nutrition, Sport Et Performance. VéÌo Québec, 2009.

What to eat before physical activity is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
Copyright © Nautilus Plus 2017

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