Know the feeling when you're heading out on a run, and you can't seem to stop feeling cramps in your abdomen and gas? Yeah, it doesn't sound sexy, but it's real. Unfortunately, foods can affect our workouts, and so it's important to make sure you are fueling and recovering right in order to reap major benefits and stay safe in workouts, as explained by Jan Annigan, writer and recipient of a sports medicine degree, on SF Gate.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding terrific, enjoyable and productive exercises to do that can boost their health and happiness and be sustained long-term. Fitting in a workout can be hard enough, so if you do, it's best to find something that makes you smile and feel confident and awesome and then be able to go all out and give it whatever effort and energy you have. If food can get in the way of these abilities, it can be a major downer. Thus, here are eleven foods that you should never eat before working out, as they can lead to stomach discomfort, fatigue and other digestive and poor performance woes that will hinder both your experience and your fitness results.
1. Spicy Foods
In conversation with Bustle, Susie Lemmer, a running coach and personal trainer based in Chicago, says that spicy foods before a workout can lead to "burping or stomach upset," which can obviously be quite uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to go as fast, strong, or long as we might like to. Ditch the tabasco sauce with your eggs before heading out!
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Lemmer mentions that "artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols can have a similar effect (gas, bloating, cramping)," and that they should be avoided. Furthermore, "simple sugars such as protein bars (often riddled with sugar) and soft drinks (because of the sugar AND carbonation, which can leave you feeling bloated)," can "spike your blood sugar, causing sluggish crashes before your workout is even over," says Noah Neiman, Co-Founder and Chief Fitness Officer of Rumble Boxing, over email with Bustle.
3. Dried Fruit
Foods that are high in fiber, such as wheat germ and bran, dried fruit, cruciferous vegetables and legumes, can "cause cramping and bloating," notes Lemmer. Thus, instead of eating dried fruit, have a piece of fresh fruit instead as a way to supply immediate energy and nutrients without too much fiber. A great option is a banana with a bit of protein.
"High sugar foods can give you quick energy, but they can also cause sugar crashes," says Lemmer. She recommends having "sugar in moderation," and pairing with a protein to avoid a sugar wave and crash. High-sugar foods that are also made out of processed ingredients are especially bad, as the sugar isn't natural (like found in fruit), so it won't have much nutritional value, anyway.
5. Leafy Greens
Philip Goglia, Ph.D., author of Turn Up The Heat: Unlock the Fat-Burning Power of Your Metabolism, says in interview with Women's Health that leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and Collard greens, as well as cruciferous green vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, can cause abdominal pain and gas when consumed prior to working out due to a high fiber content.
Goglia also recommends avoiding hummus and other bean-based dips prior to working out, as the legumes have fiber fiber content, which can lead to gas and bloating, and when packaged in pre-prepared containers, they can contain additional oils and other ingredients that can interfere with smooth digestion. Instead, use Greek yogurt or cottage cheese as a dip, as suggested.
Stella Metsovas, a clinical nutritionist and diet expert in Los Angeles, California, says in interview with Shape that consuming flaxseed before exercising can create too much fiber in the body, and the high content of fats, although healthy in the form of omega 3, can also be hard for the body to digest in a short period of time. Instead of flaxseed in oatmeal or Greek yogurt, it might be better to go with some blueberries or banana instead!
8. Protein Bars
Rania Batayneh, a certified nutritionist and eating strategist, says over interview with Shape that eating protein bars before working out can hinder fitness results. The reasoning behind this is that protein bars are often high in sweeteners and processed ingredients, which can lead to stomach discomfort, as well as an overload in protein, which can take too long in the belly for digestion to occur (and will make us feel more weighed down during our runs!).
9. Creamy Sauces
Skipping creamy sauces on pastas, meats and salads can help boost exercise performance, as it can lower the likelihood of abdominal discomfort, bloating and cramping, explains Katherine Beals, nutrition clinic director at the University of Utah, in interview with U.S. News. Plus, anything heavy can hurt performance, advises Neiman. "Feeling bloated to the gills as you are about to go attack the squat rack or heavy bag is not an inspiring emotion. Even healthy salads are extremely filling and can leave you with that bloated feeling," he says.
10. French Fries
Foods that are high in fats, such as trans and saturated fats, especially, can create abdominal discomfort during physical activity and should be avoided before an exercise session. Experts at Mayo Clinic explain how these foods can interfere with our digestion and can cause burping, bloating and gas. Such heavy, fattening foods include fries, burgers, pizza, sugary goods and red meat.
Over email with Bustle, healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines explains how dairy can be irritating for certain people who notice sensitivities and these reactions can be exacerbated during exercise (especially more intense styles). "Dairy, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, can cause abdominal discomfort in some people, myself included," says Traines; however, she stresses that each individual differs, and so it's best to do what's right for your body alone.
When you're heading out for a workout, you should feel excited, agile and confident, rather than bloated and uncomfortable. It's already a tremendous feat to have carved out time for a sweat session, and so there's no point in letting it go to waste with a compromised state. Eat right to workout with everything you have in order to get long-lasting and hard-earned results!
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