There’s nothing worse than showing up to your workout feeling nauseous, lightheaded, dizzy, or like you’re about to throw up the slice of leftover pizza you ate as you left the house. My esteemed colleague Betchy Crocker recently suggested some good things to eat after you work out, but your pre-workout food is just as important. You want to make sure you’re eating enough to give you energy, but not something you’ll regret as soon as you start doing cardio. Here are some of the best foods to eat before working out.
Whole grains, like oats, are complex carbs that break down into glucose and fuel your muscles during your workout. Try going for a bowl of oatmeal or some granola about an hour before your workout. Professional nutritionists swear by these options because they’re simple and will give your body immediate energy.
2. Apple Or Banana
Apples and bananas are simple carb sources, which means they’ll give your body the energy it needs almost immediately. They digest faster than whole grains do, so even though they won’t keep you as full, they’ll give you a boost of energy if you eat them 20-30 minutes before the workout. Mostly any fruit is good to eat before working out, but stay away from high-fiber fruits like berries and pears because they’ll take longer to digest and may hurt your stomach if you’re jumping around a lot. Also, has anyone in the history of the world gotten full off berries? Lmk.
3. Greek Yogurt
People like to eat yogurt after their workouts because it’s mainly a source of protein, but protein is super important to eat before working out as well. Especially if you’re doing weight training, you’ll need the protein in your body to help your muscles repair themselves from the microtears that occur during your session. Try looking for simple ingredients and minimal sugar in your yogurt. Siggi’s and Fage both make great nonfat yogurts. Chobani works too, but watch the sugar count depending on the flavor.
4. Eggs & Toast
If you have an hour or two before you head to the gym and need something more substantial than a piece of fruit to eat before working oat, the eggs and toast combo is your best bet. The toast will give you the energy from its complex carb makeup, and eggs are a simple protein source with a little bit of fat. It’s enough to fill you up without making you nauseous halfway through.
Maca root, often found in the form of maca powder, is an ancient Peruvian plant that is literally filled with nutrients that will boost your workout. Maca is rich in amino acids and vitamins, and it’s also an adaptogen, so it aids in adrenal function, increasing your energy levels and enhancing workout performance. Blend it into a smoothie before your workout or mix it into your oatmeal. It’s a game-changer.
6. RX Bars or Lara Bars
Bars are a go-to option to eat before working out if you’re going straight from the office and don’t have time to stop and pick up legit food. Natural protein bars have been all over the health food market recently, and two great pre-workout options are RX Bars and Lara Bars. They’re both made with dates and nuts, so you have a quick carb and natural sugar source from the dates, and a little healthy fat from the nuts to keep you full. RX Bars even include eggs for extra protein. The Maple Sea Salt flavor is a personal fav. Just saying.
I know this isn’t actually a food, but having a cup of coffee or green tea before your workout is KEY if you want a real energy boost. I would pair this with some real food too, but caffeine has been scientifically proven to boost your workout by tapping into your central nervous system and recruiting muscle fibers in your body. Basically, it helps you fight fatigue and improve physical performance. So like, order the venti. It’s the responsible thing to do.
We’re all about loving ourselves over here, but sometimes there’s just a little stubborn stomach fat right above our jeans that’s not so easy to love. Like, we can admit that we’re a work in progress, even though it’s obviously the really expensive work that has a VIP exhibition line down the block. Everyone has love handles, and making them go away isn’t as easy as drinking a green juice and taking a spin class one time. Trust us, we’ve tried. This workout combines cardio moves with oblique-targeting exercises, and it’s only six moves total, so you can do each one for 45 seconds and then repeat the circuit as many times as you want. Here’s how to lose the love handles.
1. Mountain Climbers With Twist
This move is also sometimes called the cross-body mountain climber, but we prefer twist because you need visualize your entire torso twisting as you jog your legs in toward your chest. Starting in a plank position, keep your shoulders over your wrists to engage your core and not put too much pressure on your shoulders. Then, jog your legs into your torso one at a time, twisting the leg to the opposite side of your body. So, if you’re bringing your right knee up, try to reach it towards your left elbow. Then, do the same on the other side. Do a few reps slowly and then pick up the pace once you get the hang of it. Remember to squeeze your core at the top every time.
2. Side Plank With Pulse
If you feel like your side planks aren’t doing anything for you, your form is probably wrong, and you need to be engaging your obliques, which are the sides of your abs that should burn throughout this exercise. Start on one side by placing your right elbow on the ground and stacking your feet, making sure your body is in a straight line with your hips about 5 inches of the floor. Lower your hips slightly and then lift your pelvis up, squeezing your right oblique. Try to pulse for a few seconds at the bottom of every dip to really burn out the muscle. You should aim for about 20 pulses in the full 45-second interval. Then, do the same on the left side.
3. Russian Twists
A Russian Twist sounds like a funky cocktail you’d get at a speakeasy, but it’s SO much better than that. Okay, kidding. These suck. But they get the job done and they’re so effective if you’re doing them right. Start by sitting on the ground with your feet out in front of you while holding a weight or medicine ball in your hands. Lift your feet off the ground and tilt backwards, twisting the weight from one side of your body to the other, basically touching the ground on each side. Remember to twist using your core and take your time on these. If they’re too hard, drop your feet to the ground to make it easier on your core.
4. Plank Jacks
Holding a plank can get super boring, so by adding a jumping jack, you get to raise your heart rate and burn calories while working out your core muscles. It might hurt when you try to laugh tomorrow, but it’s worth it. Start in an elbow plank with your feet behind you, keeping your right and left foot close together. Then, without lifting your butt at all, jump your feet out and in, like you’re doing horizontal jumping jacks. By combining a cardio move with an ab move, you’re toning and burning cals at the same time. Like, can we get more impressive?
5. Sprinter Sit-Ups
The sit-up exercise gets a lot of flack in the fitness industry because a lot of trainers feel like people are hurting their backs and not really engaging their core. By doing sprinter sit-ups instead, we’re activating the sides of our core, and work out our hip flexors as well, which will help with your total body strength and won’t put as much pressure on your back. Basically, this move is a winner. Sitting down on the ground, lean back slightly as you lift your right leg up and bring the left elbow to the right knee, engaging your obliques as you twist toward the right side. Alternate between right and left for the full 45-second interval, and make sure you’re using your core to twist, not your elbow.
6. Squat Thrusts
Squat thrusts sound like they’d be a lower body exercise, but they’re low-key amazing for your abs, and they target other parts of your body too, which is just a win-win. Squat thrusts are basically burpees, but with a focus on the plank, so there’s no push-up at the bottom. You’re welcome. Standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, lower into a squat position and place your hands on the floor. Then, kick your legs back into a high plank position, and then jump them forward, back to your squat. Stand up and add a jump at the top, and then keep going. The point of the squat thrust is to burn calories using your abs, legs, and arms, so your whole body is involved. This move is basically the icing on the cake. But like, a very healthy, low-cal cake.
We can literally come up with a thousand excuses to avoid working out, but one very legit one is the whole hair washing issue. Can we please address this?! Like, no one wants to wash their hair everyday, so it doesn’t make sense to get all sweaty and then deal with this awful predicament. Plus, your hairdresser even told you it’s bad for you, so you basically have a doctor’s note to avoid the gym. If you’re looking for a workout you can do that doesn’t require sweating through your blowout, find a very air-conditioned room and try this one. Do each exercise for 45 seconds with about 20 seconds of rest in between each move. Try to repeat the circuit four times total.
1. Squat To Lunge
Squats and lunges are two of the best lower body moves, so by combining both into one exercise, you’re basically working your butt and legs from every angle. Starting with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, squat down, getting your butt low and making sure your knees don’t extend over your feet. Then, stand back up and bring one leg back into a reverse lunge, stepping into a 90 degree angle. Bring that leg back up to standing position and do the same thing on the other leg. Then, go back into your squat. Keep this pattern going for the full 45 seconds, aiming for about eight reps total.
2. Spiderman Crunches
The idea of doing anything with the word “Spiderman” in it sounds like some traumatic third date memory, but these crunches will literally destroy your abs without making you break a sweat. It’s actually more of a plank than a crunch, so you’ll start in a regular plank position with your feet behind you, about shoulder-width apart. Then, you’ll take your right leg and crunch it inward toward your right elbow, creating a Spiderman-esque shape with your body. Make sure to squeeze your abs as your knee hits your elbow. Bring the right leg back into place and do the same move on the left leg, alternating between the two legs the entire time.
3. Tricep Dips
Tricep dips are the kind of exercise that can be SO easy if you’re doing them wrong, but if your form is right, it’s almost impossible to do them for 45 seconds straight without breaking. Basically, you’ll need a bench or a couch behind you to put your hands on. You’ll need to sit with your feet out in front of you, with your butt about an inch away from the bench. Then, using your tricep muscles in your upper arms, you’ll move your body up and down, keeping your butt off the floor the entire time. The key here is to make sure your chin isn’t facing downwards and to keep your butt as close as you can to the bench. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have trouble lifting your arms to brush your hair tomorrow.
4. Walking Lunges With Pulse
We did reverse lunges in the first exercise, but this time we’re doing forward lunges and adding a pulse, just because extra pain equals extra amazing-looking legs for leggings season. So, instead of taking a step backwards, you’ll just step forwards with your leg, creating a 90 degree angle, and then pulse up and down at the bottom for a few seconds. Then, step forward with the other leg, basically walking across the room in lunge-position. Remember to take big steps and keep your knee super close to the ground when pulsing. It shouldn’t be easy to do for 45 seconds straight.
5. Shoulder Tap To Mountain Climber
This is the one time we’re putting in a cardio move, but mountain climbers shouldn’t get you too sweaty because they’re mostly for your abs and arms. Starting in a plank position, you’re going to tap your right hand to your left shoulder and then put it back on the ground and repeat the same on the other side. Then, go directly into four mountain climbers, jogging your knees into your chest while staying in the plank. Alternate between the shoulder taps and mountain climbers to keep your arms and abs burning for the full 45 seconds. Feels good, right?
6. Bodyweight Plank
Ending a full-body workout with a plank is always a good idea, because planks actually target every muscle in your body, not only your abs. Start on your hands or forearms, and keep your feet close together while your body stays in one straight line. Make sure to squeeze every muscle in your abs, butt, and back, keeping your entire body engaged. Planking at the end of a workout can burn up to 80 more calories, so don’t bail early on this one. Hold the perfect plank for 45 seconds, and if you want to make it even harder, lift your feet onto an elevated surface, like a box or a medicine ball. It may be the longest 45 seconds of your life, but you’re saving time by not washing your hair, so stop complaining.