Endurance is strictly defined as the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity. Anyone whose ever trained for a race or another competitive event will agree that “stressful effort” seems like just the right way to phrase it. Completing the same movement patterns again and again (and! again!) can be taxing on your body—especially if what you’re eating before a workout doesn’t fuel your efforts.
Clinical nutritionist Nicole Lund, MS, RDN, of the NYU Langone Sports Performance Center, says that five specific foods are best avoided before any exercise that heavily relies on endurance. First and foremost, she says that fats don’t deserve a spot on your plate in the hours leading up to intense exercise. “Fats remain in the stomach longer than any other macronutrient because of their complicated digestive process,” says Lund. “Furthermore, since all digestion slows during exercise, fat can interfere with performance by causing gastric distress.”
Besides the fact that fats like to stick around in your GI tract longer than, say, carbs, they also won’t boost your energy levels in the immediate future. “The energy from fat is not immediately available for use, so they should not be consumed for fuel soon before training,” says Lund. If you’re thinking about scooping avocado onto your omelette or spreading cream cheese on a bagel, freeze—and consider the long game. (You can save your healthy fats for after you’ve crushed your workout, when they’ll help you recover.)
Besides fats, the sports nutritionist also says to avoid fructose, sorbitol (a fruit-derived artificial sweetener), caffeine, and high-fiber foods when you’re planning on sporting your sneakers imminently. You still need to eat though! Lund recommends easily digestible carbohydrates in the form of gels, dried fruit, pretzels, or your preference of bread relative. Pair that with the right amount of hydration and you’ll be crossing the very, very distant finish line in no time flat. “You’re essentially looking to sustain energy, so amount and timing is the key,” says Lund. Now that you have the noshing skills you need, so-called stressful effort doesn’t stand a chance.
These are the best foods to eat for a nice boost of energy: