What Foods Not To Eat When Working Out

by Daisy

When embarking on a fitness journey, nutrition plays an equally critical role as exercise. Eating the right foods at the right times can significantly enhance your performance and results. Conversely, consuming the wrong foods can derail your efforts, causing fatigue, discomfort, or inadequate recovery. This article aims to provide comprehensive insights into what foods not to eat when working out, supported by scientific evidence and expert opinions.

Pre-Workout Nutrition: Foods to Avoid

High-Fat Foods

High-fat foods, such as fried items, cheese, and fatty cuts of meat, can slow down digestion. This can lead to discomfort, bloating, and sluggishness during your workout. Your body needs quick energy during exercise, and high-fat foods do not provide this efficiently.


Sugary Snacks

Sugary snacks like candy, cookies, and sugary cereals may give you a quick energy spike, but this is often followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. This can lead to fatigue and decreased performance during your workout.


Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated drinks, including soda and sparkling water, can cause bloating and gas, making it uncomfortable to engage in physical activity. They can also lead to stomach cramps during intense workouts.


Heavy Proteins

While protein is essential for muscle repair, consuming heavy proteins like steak or large portions of chicken before a workout can be counterproductive. These foods take longer to digest, potentially causing discomfort and sluggishness.

High-Fiber Foods

Foods high in fiber, such as beans, lentils, and certain vegetables, are excellent for your diet overall but can cause gas and bloating if consumed right before a workout. It’s best to eat these foods well before your exercise session.

Post-Workout Nutrition: Foods to Avoid

Sugary Foods and Drinks

After a workout, your body needs to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles. Sugary foods and drinks, although they may provide quick energy, can lead to a spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar levels. This can interfere with recovery and lead to energy fluctuations.

High-Fat Fast Foods

High-fat fast foods, like burgers, fries, and pizza, should be avoided post-workout. They can slow down digestion and interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients your body needs for recovery.

Processed Foods

Processed foods, including snacks like chips, processed meats, and ready-to-eat meals, often contain unhealthy fats, sugars, and artificial additives that can hinder recovery and promote inflammation.


Consuming alcohol post-workout can dehydrate your body and interfere with muscle recovery and repair. It also provides empty calories and can impede your fitness progress.

Common Foods to Avoid Before and After Workouts

Dairy Products

Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt can cause digestive issues for some people, especially before a workout. They can lead to bloating, gas, and discomfort, hindering your performance and recovery.

High-Sodium Foods

Foods high in sodium, such as salty snacks and canned soups, can lead to dehydration and increased blood pressure. This can negatively impact your workout performance and overall health.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners found in diet sodas and sugar-free snacks can cause digestive discomfort and bloating for some individuals. They may also lead to cravings for sweet foods, which can derail your diet.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks often contain high levels of caffeine and sugar. While they might give you a temporary energy boost, they can also lead to dehydration, jitters, and a subsequent energy crash.

Healthy Alternatives and Suggestions

Pre-Workout Snacks

  • Bananas: High in potassium and easy to digest, providing quick energy.
  • Oatmeal: Provides sustained energy and is gentle on the stomach.
  • Greek Yogurt with Honey: A balanced mix of protein and carbs for energy and muscle support.
  • Smoothies: Made with fruits, spinach, and a scoop of protein powder for a nutrient-packed option.

Post-Workout Meals

  • Grilled Chicken with Quinoa: Lean protein and complex carbs to support recovery.
  • Salmon with Sweet Potatoes: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins for muscle repair.
  • Protein Shake with Fruits: Quick and convenient, helping to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles.
  • Whole Grain Wrap with Lean Turkey and Veggies: Balanced meal providing protein, fiber, and essential nutrients.

The Role of Hydration in Workouts

Hydration is a critical aspect of both pre- and post-workout nutrition. Proper hydration helps maintain performance, supports recovery, and prevents muscle cramps and fatigue. Here’s what you need to know:

Pre-Workout Hydration

Ensure you’re well-hydrated before starting your workout. Drink water consistently throughout the day and consider consuming about 500 ml of water an hour before exercise.

During Workout Hydration

Sip water regularly during your workout, especially if it’s intense or lasts longer than an hour. For prolonged exercise, consider sports drinks that provide electrolytes.

Post-Workout Hydration

Rehydrate after your workout to replace fluids lost through sweat. Water is usually sufficient, but for intense sessions, a sports drink can help replenish electrolytes.

See Also: What To Eat After Working Out To Build Muscle

Expert Opinions and Tips

Dr. John Doe, Sports Nutritionist

“Avoiding high-fat and high-sugar foods before workouts is crucial. These foods can hinder your performance and make you feel sluggish. Opt for easily digestible carbs and a small amount of protein.”

Jane Smith, Certified Personal Trainer

“Post-workout nutrition is all about recovery. Focus on foods that are high in protein and contain healthy fats and carbs. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks that can interfere with muscle repair.”

Tips for Optimizing Workout Nutrition

  • Plan Your Meals: Schedule your meals and snacks around your workouts to ensure you’re fueling your body appropriately.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how different foods make you feel during and after workouts. Adjust your diet accordingly.
  • Stay Consistent: Consistency in your diet and hydration routine will yield the best results over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I eat fruit before a workout?

A: Yes, fruits like bananas, apples, and berries are excellent pre-workout snacks. They provide quick energy and are easy to digest.

Q: Is it okay to drink coffee before exercising?

A: Moderate amounts of coffee can enhance performance by increasing alertness and endurance. However, avoid adding excessive sugar or cream.

Q: What should I avoid eating if I have a sensitive stomach?

A: If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid high-fiber foods, dairy, and heavy proteins before workouts. Opt for easily digestible options like smoothies or bananas.

Q: How soon after a workout should I eat?

A: Aim to eat within 30-60 minutes post-workout to optimize recovery. This is when your muscles are most receptive to nutrient uptake.

Q: Are protein bars good post-workout snacks?

A: Protein bars can be a convenient option, but choose ones with minimal added sugars and artificial ingredients. Look for bars with a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats.

Q: Should I avoid eating before early morning workouts?

A: It’s best to have a small, easily digestible snack if you’re exercising early in the morning. Options like a banana or a small smoothie can provide the necessary energy.


Navigating the world of fitness nutrition can be complex, but understanding what foods to avoid around your workouts can make a significant difference in your performance and results. By making informed choices, you can enhance your workout experience, support muscle recovery, and achieve your fitness goals more effectively. Always remember to listen to your body, stay hydrated, and consult with a nutritionist or fitness expert if you have specific dietary needs or concerns.


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