In order to properly fuel your body for an intense gym session, it is important to choose food sources that will optimize your workout. Foods that contain both carbohydrates and protein are good options prior to training, but where does fat fit into this equation?
Prior to a workout, it is best to avoid foods that are high in fat. Fats are slow to digest, which will result in a delayed release of energy that can negatively affect your training. Having a high-fat meal before a workout also increases your risk of digestive upset, which is why it is best that they are avoided.
It is worth noting that while fats may not be the optimal choice for your pre-workout meal, they should not be avoided entirely.
It is crucial to include the right amounts of healthy fats in other meals during the day to ensure you are meeting your body’s daily requirements. Failing to do so could result in a deficiency in vital nutrients in your diet.
This article will provide you with helpful information on the following topics:
- Reasons why you want to limit fat before a workout
- How much fat is okay to eat before your workout
- Other nutrients to prioritize before a workout
- How long before your workout should you eat fat
- Types of fat sources that are better or worse pre workout
2 Reasons Why You Want To Limit Fat Before A Workout
The two main reasons that you should consider limiting your fat intake prior to your workout are:
1. Fat Does Not Provide a Quick Source of Fuel for the Body
Out of all three macronutrients, fat takes the longest for our bodies to digest and pass through our system. While this can provide some advantages in certain situations, it is not ideal prior to a workout.
After eating high-fat foods, it can take hours for this food to digest in your stomach. As a result, blood is directed to your GI tract in order to help facilitate the process of digestion.
Normally, this lengthy digestion process is not a problem. However, when you are trying to work out, you don’t want all of that blood going to your digestive system; you want it to go to your muscles.
If you don’t have enough blood bringing oxygen to your muscles while you workout, you can be sure that your performance will be negatively impacted.
Because fat takes the longest out of all three macronutrients to convert to usable energy, it is best that it be limited or left out of your pre-workout meal altogether.
While fat may not provide the body with a fast form of energy, it is very beneficial for longer, lower intensity endurance exercises such as walking or jogging long distances.
This is why you want to avoid eating fried food before a workout.
2. Fat Is Slow to Digest Resulting in Potential Digestive Upset
Not only does eating fat before a workout results in less available blood to go to the muscles, but it can also cause digestive problems while you train.
If you experience any stomach pain during your workout, it could be a result of eating fat too close to your training session. When you are working out, you are forcing blood away from your digestive system and into your muscles.
Therefore, if you decide to consume foods that are high in fat before you train, you could experience some symptoms of indigestion.
The last thing that you want during your workout is to feel sluggish or lethargic from a full stomach. For this reason, when choosing a pre-workout meal, it is best to avoid fat and choose foods that digest quickly.
Are you tracking your macros properly?
How Much Fat Is Okay To Eat Before Your Workout
While the exact amount of fat to consume before a workout is going to vary depending on the individual, it is safe to say that in general, calories from fat should be kept low prior to training.
If you are eating your pre-workout meal 30-60 minutes prior, it is best to keep fat grams as low as possible. An example of a pre-workout meal this close to training might look like a bowl of nonfat Greek yogurt with berries.
However, if you are eating breakfast at 6:30am, and don’t plan to train until 9:30am, you would be fine to consume roughly a serving of fat without it having any negative effect on your session. This meal might consist of oatmeal, fruit, and a tablespoon of almond butter.
The recommended daily intake for fat is roughly 20% to 35% of total daily calories. For someone who is consuming around 2000 calories per day, this is a daily fat consumption of roughly 44 to 77 grams of fat per day. Ideally, it is best to consume these fats away from your workout.
What Other Nutrients Should You Prioritize Before A Workout?
While high-fat foods may not be the ideal choice right before your workout, there are other nutrients that you can eat that will help to maximize your performance in your training session.
More specifically, the two nutrients you want to make sure you eat before your workout are (1) carbohydrates and (2) protein.
1. Carbohydrates Provide Fast Energy for Your Workout
When it comes to the most ideal pre-workout nutrient, carbohydrates definitely take the cake.
Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel, and it’s main source of energy. Ideally, your pre-workout meal will consist mostly of foods rich in fast-digesting carbs.
Good examples of pre-workout carbohydrates include:
2. Protein Provides Amino Acids to Help Build Muscle
It is ideal to consume moderate amounts of protein in combination with carbohydrates as your pre-workout meal. While carbs provide the body with energy, it is protein that contains the essential amino acids that are crucial for muscle repair.
In order to maintain muscle mass and help to stimulate new muscle growth during your workout, it is important to include protein-rich food sources with a wide range of amino acids. Eating protein prior to training can also assist with muscle recovery.
Some good examples of pre-workout protein choices are:
It is very important to note that while protein has a place in your pre-workout meal, the majority of your calories in this meal should be coming from carbohydrates.
Protein, similar to fat, takes longer to digest in comparison to carbohydrates. If you overdo protein intake prior to your training session, you risk feeling sluggish from your food taking too long to digest.
How Long Before Your Workout Should You Eat Fat?
When it comes to pre-workout nutrition, when you eat is just as important as what you eat. In regards to fat, it is safe to say that the closer you get to your workout, the less fat you should eat.
Ideally, you want to consume a small meal 30-60 minutes prior to training, consisting mostly of carbohydrates. This will ensure that you have plenty of glycogen ready to fuel your workout. If this is the case, it is optimal to avoid fat at this meal entirely.
If your pre-workout meal falls 2-3 hours before your workout, then consuming a small serving of fat in your meal is acceptable, as your body will have some time to digest the high fat food.
Is There A Type of Fat Source That Is Better Or Worse Pre-Workout?
If you are going to consume fat prior to working out, it is worth knowing which sources of fat are going to be more beneficial than others.
Prior to a training session, large amounts of saturated fats should be avoided. If you are planning on having a big cheeseburger, or a big helping of avocado toast, you are better off to consume this away from your workout.
There are certain fats, such as trans fats, that are known to negatively impact your overall health, and should be avoided entirely. Trans fats are typically found in fried foods, frozen meals, and commercial baked goods.
However, if you do decide to have a small amount of fat before your workout, your best bet is to go with foods that are rich in unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are known to decrease inflammation and improve blood cholesterol levels, Foods that contain unsaturated fats include fish, nuts and seeds, and olive oil.
Let’s get you in the best shape of your life. Sounds good?
What To Read Next
If you want to keep learning about fats, then make sure to check out:
- What Happens When You Go Over Your Fat Macros?
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories, But Low In Saturated Fats
- Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
- Can I Workout After Dinner? What To Eat + 6 Things To Know
About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.