Whether you’re going all-natural or looking for the perfect supplement, there are lots of options for pre-workout nutrition, but knowing what’s best can be tough.

You eat before workouts in order to keep your body fueled and in prime condition to perform at your best. If your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, your performance can be negatively affected, which is the last thing you want.

So, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about pre-workout nutrition.

Why carbs? Isn’t that what I’m trying to burn off?
Carbs have gotten a bad rap over the last few decades, but they are the best fuel for your muscles. If you want to perform well and have energy during your workout, you better be consuming carbs. And for your pre-workout nutrition, simple carbohydrates are just as important as complex carbs. Balance is key. Simple carbs have a faster utilization rate, which means they’re easier for your body to access and break down. Plus, who doesn’t love carbs?

Why protein? Isn’t that for post-workout?
While protein is great to include in your post-workout snack, it also helps pre-workout. Protein stabilizes your blood sugar, and provides a slower releasing energy. Plus, gram for gram, protein keeps you the most full, so when your calorie count is low it helps fight off hunger.

Why fluids? Won’t they slosh around in my stomach?
Hydration is big. It’s bigger than big. It’s huge. You won’t perform well when you’re dehydrated, and exercising leaves you more at risk for dehydration, so you need to constantly replenish your fluids. That being said, don’t drink 40 ounces of water and then go for a run. Not only will that fluid slosh everywhere in your stomach, but you might just lose it. Small sips and small amounts of water, about 8–16 ounces, keep your body hydrated the best.

What should I avoid?
Avoid foods super high in fiber foods, as these can yield to digestive irritation during your workout. They keep you full, but make your stomach feel heavy since fiber retains water in your stomach. Same goes with dairy, you’ll want to avoid it pre-workout, especially if you’re feeling under the weather. And don’t consume acidic foods if you have a sensitive stomach. Also, just eating too much of anything, or consuming excess caffeine can lead to a less than stellar performance.

When should I eat?

You’ll want to eat about 30 minutes prior to exercise.

How much should I eat?
About 100–250 calories, depending on how long and intense your workout.

Why so many options?

Different options work for different people. One option may be perfect for one person, and terrible for another. The key is to find out what works for you.

What are some specific options?

Natural Options

Fruit-strawberries, banana, apple
Oatmeal
Peanut butter on toast (optional-sliced banana)
Banana and Greek yogurt
Juice

Supplement Options
Protein supplement (bar, shake, etc.)
Caffeine
BCAAs

Fueling your body is like starting a fire. Simple carbs and caffeine serve as the kindling and fire starter, while the complex carbohydrates and protein are the logs that keep your fire burning, and allow you to keep up the hard work.

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer

WARNING: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFit assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.