What Should I Eat Before Exercising?

Our fitness expert tells you which foods will fuel your workout, plus when to eat them.

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on February 25, 2014
From the WebMD Archives

Q: What's the best snack before working out? How long before my workout should I eat it?

A: First, be sure you really need a snack. Generally, you don't need to eat before exercise unless you tend to run low on energy during your workouts, or it's been more than a couple of hours since your last meal.

The best time to eat is about 30 minutes before you begin to exercise, and the best snack is one that combines carbs and protein, with an emphasis on the carbs. You don't need a lot of food, by the way. For carbs, aim for the equivalent of half of a bagel or a large banana; for protein, consider a couple tablespoons of peanut butter or a small cup of low-fat or nonfat yogurt. If fresh food isn't an option, look for energy bars with 25 to 40 grams of carbohydrate and about 10 grams of protein.

Best foods to avoid? Go easy on warm fluids (which tend to speed food through your intestines) as well as milk and high-fat or high-fiber foods, all of which can upset your stomach. Eating too much fat can also leave you feeling sluggish. And of course, avoid high-calorie snacks if you're watching your weight.

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The best time to eat is about 30 minutes before you begin to exercise, and you don't need a lot of food.