10 Surprising Foods You Should Never Eat Before a Workout (PHOTOS)

Maressa Brown | Dec 11, 2014 Healthy Living

woman getting saladIf you're going to go to the trouble of hitting the gym, might as well ensure you're fueling your exercise sesh properly with the right pre-workout meal or snack, right? But that's easier said than done! Unfortunately, there's far too much befuddlement surrounding which foods are go-tos and which are no-nos before working up a sweat.

To clear up the confusion, we asked nutrition experts what foods are ill-advised if you want to get the most out of your fitness routine.

foods not to eat before your workout

Check out their tips below, then tell us: Did you know the caveat about #3?


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  • Protein Bar


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    A snack bar billed as a pre- or post-workout protein-packed treat could be filled with sugar instead. Your best bet on this one is to be particularly scrupulous. "If bars are a convenient option for you, choose products with about a 3 or 4-to-1 carb-to- protein ratio, with carbs preferably from fruits and not added corn syrup/sugar," advises Marci Clow, MS, RDN, senior nutritionist at Rainbow Light.

  • Salad


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    "If you want stomach cramps and discomfort during a workout, be sure to load up on a light, veggie-piled salad!" notes Rene Ficek, RD and lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating.

    What's more, "veggies are mostly fiber and water," Ficek explains. "Therefore, they lack the slow-released carbohydrates needed for sustained energy for a workout."

  • Unripe Banana


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    A ripe banana is a smart pre-workout snack, but an unripe one is probably not your best bet! Before bananas are ripe, they're considered to be in the starch stage and are harder to digest, so they could cause gas and bloating. Make sure your banana is ripe enough by checking to see that there is no green by its stem.

  • Protein Shake


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    "High-protein shakes often pack in the protein but omit sufficient carbs to fuel the workout," notes Clow. But again, if they're a convenient choice for you, just try to follow the same rule of thumb as protein bars.

  • Beans


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    "Beans -- pinto, navy beans, northern beans, or lentils -- are slow to digest, which is good every other time [other than right before a workout]," explains Alan Christianson, NMD, author of the forthcoming book, The Adrenal Reset Diet. But if you have them right before your workout, they may create bloating and gas, which definitely won't serve you well as you're trying to work up a sweat.

  • Soda


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    Swigging down a caffeinated soda may seem smart. It'll help you get through your workout with more pep, right? Not so much. "Soda and other carbonated beverages cause gas and bloating for most people," says Ficek. "Combined with the excessive amounts of sugar in soda, and you have double trouble. While research has found that caffeine can provide an energy boost before exercise, espresso or a small black tea might be more stomach-friendly than a caffeinated cola or carbonated energy drink."

  • Nuts


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    Nuts, filled with protein and good fats, seem like a safe choice, right? Not really, says Clow. "High-fat snacks can make you feel sluggish, because digestion of fats is slow and fat is turned into energy much less efficiently than carbs and protein are," she explains.

    More from The Stir: I Stopped Dieting & Worrying About Food and Something Amazing Happened

  • Broccoli


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    Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, are so nutritious! How could they EVER be a bad guy? Turns out, before your workout, they're not so innocent! "High-fiber vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, can cause gastrointestinal mid-workout," notes Clow. "These foods also do not provide sufficient carbs for energy to fuel a workout." 

  • Sports Drink


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    "Guzzling sugary liquids like juices, gels, and sports drinks can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea," warns Ficek. "While these simple carbohydrates are great for a quick boost, they won't provide sustained energy."

  • Lean Meat


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    What could be harmful about eating a piece of grilled chicken or a few slices of turkey? Lean protein is always a smart choice, right? Not so, says Dr. Christianson. "Solid, high-protein foods -- chicken, pork, beef, and fish -- cause the stomach to exert energy in digestion, raising the risk for cramps," he explains. So better to reach for them after your workout is over.

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