8 worst foods, meals to eat before, after a workout: From alcohol to spice

Group of three foods photos of pretzels, wine and kidney beans.
Read on for the eight foods to avoid before and after a workout. (Photos via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

The food you eat before a workout can affect how much energy you have, how focused you are, and how much your muscles respond to exercise.

Additionally, what you eat after a workout can alter your body's ability to recover after breaking a sweat.

Read on to learn what foods you should avoid before and after a workout.

Worst foods to eat before a workout

Before you exercise it's a good idea to eat carbohydrates and protein, which your body can easily digest.

However, certain hard-to-digest foods can make you feel tired or uncomfortable as you workout.

Below are key foods to avoid before you hit the gym.

A woman in a white shirt pouring protein powder into a smoothie container.
You should avoid high protein foods like protein powder before a workout. (Photo via Getty Images)

1. High-protein foods

Protein is an important part of a balanced diet and plays a role in recovering and building muscle after a workout. However, when you eat protein is key.

High-protein foods are complex nutrients that slow down your digestive system.

Eating them before a workout can leave you feeling sluggish or give you an upset stomach, so try eating it after instead.

Spicy red peppers sitting in a bowl on top of a black background.
Eating spicy food can lead to heartburn or indigestion. (Photo via Getty Images)

2. Spicy foods

Spicy foods are delicious, but you may regret eating them before physical activity.

Eating spicy food can lead to heartburn or indigestion, which can cause you to feel discomfort and in turn shorten your exercise session.

Three different types of beans on wooden spoons sitting on a grey background
Your body takes a long time to digest high-fibre foods like beans. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. High-fibre foods

While fibrous foods such as cruciferous vegetables and beans are necessary for your overall health, eating them right before exercising is a mistake.

Your body takes a long time to digest high-fibre foods, and working out after eating them can lead to digestive distress and fatigue.

Additionally, some fibrous foods like beans promote gas and bloating, which can further detract from your workout.

Someone pouring a carbonated beverage into a glass on a wooden table
Carbonation can cause bloating, making working out more difficult. (Photo via Getty Images)

4. Carbonated beverages

Drinking carbonated beverages like sparkling water and soda before exercising can lead to an upset stomach. This is because the carbonation can cause bloating, making working out more difficult.

Carbonated drinks can also contain a large amount of refined sugar, which overloads the bloodstream. This can make your muscles more tired.

Instead, stick to regular water to properly hydrate without any negative side effects.

Worst foods to eat after a workout

Once you've finished your workout, it's important to avoid certain foods to ensure that your body reaps the rewards of your training.

To make the most out of your workout, avoid the following foods within a few hours after exercising.

White wine getting swished around in a wine glass.
Drinking alcohol right after working out dehydrates you. (Photo via Getty Images)

1. Alcohol

You should always give your body time to recover after the gym before having a drink.

Drinking alcohol right after working out dehydrates you, which means your body can have difficulty recovering.

Moreover, your body treats alcohol as a toxin. When you drink after a workout, your body focuses on getting rid of the alcohol and reduces it's ability to burn fat burn and build muscle.

Generally, wait at least one hour after exercising before consuming alcohol. You should also stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water for a few hours after working out.

Seasoned french fries sitting in a ceramic cup at a restaurant
It's not recommended to eat fatty or fried foods after a workout. (Photo via Getty Images)

2. Fatty foods

While you may crave a burger after a challenging workout, you should resist the urge.

Your body breaks down and digests fatty foods at a slow rate, but after your workout, your body circulates blood to areas other than your stomach.

This means your body may have difficulty processing fatty foods, which can give you a stomach ache.

It can also prevent your digestive system from processing the protein your body needs after a workout.

A group of bite sized pretzels, some stacked, on a table.
Excess salt in certain foods like pretzels can increase blood pressure after a workout. (Photo via Getty Images)

3. Salty foods

A certain amount of salt after breaking a sweat is essential to ensure your body absorbs enough water. However, you don't want to overdo it.

Excess salt after a workout can increase blood pressure, which can make it hard for your muscles to recover and your body to rehydrate.

A place setting with silverware and a napkin on a white table
If you don't eat enough after working out, your electrolyte balance may be off. (Photo via Getty Images)

4. No food

Eating within an hour of your workout is essential to avoid cramping, muscle aches and tightness.

Additionally, if you don't eat enough after working out, your electrolyte balance may be off, leading to dehydration and fatigue.

If you're not ready for a large meal, consider eating something small to help your body recover.

A young woman jogging outside in the woods with headphones in
It's important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and properly hydrate. (Photo via Getty Images)

The bottom line

While avoiding certain foods before and after a workout is important to ensure your body can adequately recover, most foods are fine in moderation.

The best thing you can do is maintain a healthy, balanced diet and properly hydrate before, during and after a workout.

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