Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting a lecture over Zoom on sport nutrition with registered Dietician and Nutritionist, Marie-Hélène Bourbonnais. My Virtual Fitness Studio students loved Marie-Hélène’s energy and practical advice.

I often get questions like: “what foods should I eat just before a class, and when should I eat so I don’t feel sick during the class?”

Marie-Hélène shared some very valuable tips and she did so by asking us to consider 3 important questions first.

  1. Does the snack or meal contain fiber?
  2. Can the snack or meal be a liquid?
  3. How much space will the food in question take up in my stomach?

Marie-Hélène explained to us that while it is important to eat a variety of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, that will give us energy and the mental focus that we need to exercise safely, we need to be careful about when we are eating them in relation to the workout time.

For example, 1 hour before a class she wants us to select carbohydrates that will digest quickly and provide energy, keeping in mind the three questions above. The more fibre and fat that there is in the food, the longer it will take to digest, which could result in stomach upset. Drinking the food, such as a smoothie will digest faster so this is a good option, but we need to consider how much we are taking in as well.

She recommends keeping a notepad nearby and tracking our digestive experience. Did we have more energy during the workout with this particular food in our diet? Or did we feel sluggish. The important note here is you need to do what works for you and you can only discover this through trial and error.

Marie-Hélène made it clear that we need to eat before a class, so that we have energy. Remember that your body has depleted it’s energy stores all night while you were sleeping. In the morning we need to replenish our system with water and food but we need to be mindful of how close to exercise that we are eating.

Protein is important in our diet however Marie-Hélène made it clear that protein takes long to digest so it should only be eaten well in advance of a workout. She recommends that 2 hours before a class we eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Fiber and protein are important in our diet but if we eat our eggs and yogurt and whole wheat toast too close to class, our body will have to work hard digesting, while we are exercising. This may leave us feeling sluggish and deprive us of energy. I am guilty of eating a big breakfast an hour before class now that I work from home. I learned a very important lesson yesterday.

30 minutes before a workout Marie-Hélène suggests that we only take in liquid nutrients, but again everyone is different and we need to experiment to discover what is right for us. Coffee and tea are fine but caffeine is also a laxative, as she explained, so we have to be careful how close to class we enjoy our beverages. The same goes for water. Ideally 3 cups of water, 2 hours or more before class will help our workout but drop that to 1 cup, 30 minutes before class so have less in our stomach and bladder!

Marie-Hélène will return in the New Year to discuss what we should be eating after our workouts to repair and prepare the body for the next session!

I hope these tips help you to plan your meals accordingly so that can perform optimally in class.

See you soon,

Beth