Wondering what to eat before you do Pilates? It’s a really great question to be asking. Our lives are so busy. Fitting in Pilates is tough enough but then you’ve got to make sure you’re eating at the right time. Not just before Pilates but any workout for that matter. Food is fuel, and it’s important that we are giving our body the fuel it needs to get through the day and our Pilates workout.
When I first started doing Pilates, I learned the hard lesson of coming to Pilates after having had breakfast. Not only did I get to taste my breakfast a few more times during that class, but I had the toughest time feeling connected to my center.
It wouldn’t have mattered if I had egg whites and spinach or a bowl of fruit loops. The fact is eating too close to a workout is not ideal. And it’s not just because you have to work your core. It’s because when you are digesting food, your parasympathetic nervous system is on. Your body does not want to be working out while it’s trying to digest your food. In fact, if you notice you’re a bit more tired after you eat it’s because the same part of your brain that deals with digestion is also in charge of rest.
In my Pilates teacher training, my trainer said that “Eating 2 or hours or more before a Pilates workout is ideal”. And the research does back that up. If you’re having a full meal, 2-3 hours before a workout is best. But, she also said that if you’re hungry before your Pilates, it’s best to give your body a little snack. She recommended a “half of a banana or a handful of almonds.”
Now, the half of a banana definitely goes in line with nutrition research on simple carbs before a workout if you’re going to eat close one. Something that is super easy to digest and provides fuel for your workout. The almonds wouldn’t be ideal for that. But, back then I didn’t know. And here’s what I can share from my experience. A handful of almonds (5-10) was definitely helpful for calming a food craving. But inevitably I would end up choking on an almond skin halfway through my workout. Don’t even get me started on the banana suggestion…. I mean! What am I supposed to do with the other half of a banana?
After 16 years of doing Pilates, here’s what I’ve found helpful. If you can’t do your Pilates first thing in the morning, then definitely make sure that you have a reminder to eat your meals 2-3 hours before your workout. And if you’re not able to do that because life is busy, here are some suggestions:
- A quick shake: I like Organifi greens juice with water and a little oat milk.
- A small bar: Be mindful that not all bars are created equal. For me I use munk bars because they are great at giving me that snack moment without being a candy bar before a workout.
- Small serving of overnight oats: These are easy to make in your home or office. You take 1 part oats to 1 part milk of your choice. Toss in the fridge. 4+ hours later you’ve got a great snack for a pre-workout.
- Small latte with collagen powder: A little boost of caffeine before a workout can be great. Plus the collagen will give you some protein, and milk of choice will have some simple carbs. I love primal kitchen chocolate collagen.
If you have a way of having a half of a banana go for it!
The goal here is to make sure your mind is focused on your Pilates and not on hunger or digestion. Not only will you have a much better workout if you’re fueled correctly, but you’ll feel invigorated afterwards like you should after Pilates.
What’s your favorite pre-Pilates fuel?