Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of fuel, providing and sustaining energy. Your muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. It’s important that you get enough — especially if you’re doing an intense aerobic workout such as jogging. But that doesn’t mean downing a bowl of pasta before your run.

What to eat before a workout

Generally, it’s best not to eat too much — or too soon — before you exercise. That’s because your stomach is trying to digest food while your muscles are simultaneously trying to use the energy. It can also be hard on your gut, causing all sorts of gastrointestinal upsets such as cramping and bloating. As a rule of thumb, you should plan to eat a pre-workout snack 1 to 3 hours before the gym, sticking to foods and liquids that are easy on your stomach. What you should be eating before a workout depends on how long you have before starting it.

Here are some examples:

Pre-workout meals

Time before workoutPrimary NutrientsExample
3-4 hoursCarbohydrate, protein, and fatRegular meal
1-2 hoursMainly carbohydrates with small amounts of protein, and fatWhole-grain toast with nut butter and honey or jam, granola bar, yogurt, Ensure®
Less than
1 hour
Simple carbohydratesFresh or dried fruits, applesauce

If you’re prone to tummy troubles, try to avoid foods high in fat, protein, and fibre as these take longer to digest. Everyone is a little different in what they can tolerate before a workout, so it may take a little trial and error to find what pre-workout meals work best for you.

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* From a survey of 1,038 independent-living adults aged 50+ who added 1 serving of Ensure® Protein Max 30 g per day for at least 5 days over a 2-week period, compared to control group (p<0.0001).

Canadian formulation is similar to the one used in the survey. Applies to Chocolate and Vanilla flavours.

† Compared to one serving (235 mL) of Ensure® Regular.
‡ Per 330-mL serving.

§ Brand of oral nutritional supplements.

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