As someone who works out almost every single day, I’m well-aware of how to make sure I’m ready to get my sweat on. The most important thing? Being properly fueled.
I’m one of those people who just can’t work out on an empty stomach. I’ll feel too weak! But in terms of what I snack on pre-sweat sesh, that’s taken some experimenting to figure out. It was only recently that I came across a shocking revelation: Despite being generally nutritious, salads are actually not the best pre-workout option.
Every time I’ve eaten a salad shortly before a workout, I instantly regret it—my stomach feels crampy and bloated and all-around uncomfortable. I asked a nutritionist about it, and she confirmed my feelings. “Salad is A) raw, which means it’s hard to digest before a workout,” says Gabriela Peacock, clinical nutritionist and founder of GP Nutrition. “B) It doesn’t include protein that’s important for your blood sugar balance and muscle recovery.” Unless you’re adding protein in some other form, that is.
Because salad can be so complex—not to mention filled with fibrous leafy veggies—they take a lot of time and energy for your body to digest. “Salad takes anything between 45 and 90 minutes to be digested, depending on the type of leaf and vegetables used,” says Peacock. “Also, by the word ‘salad’ one could mean lettuce with some protein, which would take much longer to be broken down—two to three hours, approximately.”
Try to run or do some intense exercises, and you’ll undoubtedly feel the meal choice showing up in how you feel (mainly in the form of indigestion). “You may have indigestion, or that feeling of food ‘repeating itself,'” she says. “Therefore, you’ll feel uncomfortable.”
Instead of leafy greens, Peacock recommends something lighter and nicer on the gut. “I’d recommend an easily digestible protein snack or protein powder or drink, like half of a good-quality protein bar, a small yogurt, or a handful of nuts,” she says. But if you’ve happened to eat a salad, she says to wait to workout at least two hours. Otherwise, hello cramps.
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