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What To Eat Before Pilates

Ever walk into Pilates class and wonder if you ate the right thing before your session, or worry that maybe you didn’t eat enough?

I’m asked about pre-workout meals and snacks so often that I had to write a post about it.

First of all, you don’t want to eat a giant meal right before your Pilates session. A super-stuffed tummy means you wont want to be using your core (the idea of pulling in your stomach when you’ve just chowed down is not enticing).

Also, exercising right after a meal means your body has to divert energy away from digesting your food (what it wants to be doing) to sending blood and nutrients to your muscles. This causes bloating, gas and overall, not a happy Pilates client.

But, if you are S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G, you’ll be too weak to really get all the benefits of your Pilates session.

Ideally, you’ll want to check in with your hunger levels ahead of time and decide if you need a meal or a snack.

Then, time your meal or snack according to your workout, as suggested below.

(If you have a hard time knowing if you’re truly hungry, read this first!)

Full Meal – 1 to 2 hours before your session to give yourself time to digest.

Why? A full meal with some protein, fat, and lots of veggies gives you just the right amount of pick-me-up to stay focused and rock it.  Protein and fat are slow burning energy that give you the stamina to get through your workout. They take a bit more work for your body to digest, so don’t dig into a steak 30 minutes before you walk in.

Also, I discourage people from loading up on too many carbs right before Pilates. You’re not running a marathon and unless you are doing intermediate-advanced Pilates, your workout might not as aerobic as going for a run (the more Pilates you do, the more aerobic it gets, believe me!).

Of course, you know your body best. So do experiment with what combinations of foods works best for you, meaning it digests well and keeps you energized throughout your workout.

Plan ahead and eat at least an hour before your session (2 hours if it’s a big meal) so you’re energized, not lethargic, going into your Pilates class.

Examples:

  • Green salad with grilled chicken, avocado, sliced almonds, and homemade salad dressing
  • Lettuce-wrapped burger (with grass-fed beef, of course)
  • Lentil-vegetable salad
  • Low-carb lasagne made with zucchini noodles (try this recipe)
  • Carrot ginger squash soup with a protein side, such as roasted chicken or fish
  • Broiled salmon, broccoli, and lemon-butter sauce
  • Slow-cooker pulled pork (with one of the yummy sides I suggest here)

–OR–

Small Snack  – 30 to 45 min before your session for a quick energy boost.

Why? If you haven’t eaten anything for a few hours, your performance decreases. Pilates is all about focusing your energy on how your body is moving. If your mind is on your tummy grumbles, you won’t reap all the benefits from your session. Also, if you come in completely famished, you are more likely to binge on junk food after the session.

Examples:

  • Lara bar or KIND bar (or maybe try homemade KIND bars)
  • Greek yogurt with blueberries (if dairy messes up your digestion, read this)
  • Apple and almond butter
  • Hard-boiled egg (ideally from pastured chickens)
  • Cheese (good quality, preferably from grass-fed cows.)
  • Small handful of nuts (if eating nuts upsets your tummy, try preparing them like this)
  • Hummus with carrots and celery
  • A few spoonfuls of Cardamom Cashew Butter (this stuff tastes like cake batter, I swear!)

When you know what to eat before Pilates, it makes your sessions more worthwhile. I hope you’ll give it a try!

In the comments below, I’d love to hear about your favorite pre-Pilates snack or meal!

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

9 Comments

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  1. Lily, I really look forward to your weekly newsletters, tips, recipes, and love the whole website itself–the layout, the way it works, your personal tweets, the great photos …. Keep it coming. You. do have a lot to share.

    • Thanks for your support, Mike! I’ll keep writing as long as people like you keep reading 🙂

  2. Hi, I was wondering if the kind bars really are low Glycemic? I’ve been hearing mixed information.

    • Hi Ana,
      It depends on the flavor. The KIND bars that are mostly nuts, seeds, and coconut are low glycemic. The flavors that have more dried fruit and therefore more sugar/carbs will be higher glycemic. I suggest looking for the flavors that have a) real food ingredients (no soy protein) and b) are lowest in carbs.

      Another option is to eat half a KIND bar (your favorite flavor) and match it with a small handful of nuts. That’s automatically lower glycemic.

      Of course, you can always make your own, which is what I do! Here’s the recipe for Homemade KIND Bars.

      • Is there a certain number of sugar I should look for? I try to aim for 6 grams or less. Although, I’m a bit confused on the carb grams?

        The dark chocolate and sea salt only have 5 grams of sugar and 16 grams of carbs, while the newer ones (the kind and strong Thai sweet chili) has 6 grams of sugar and 15 grams of carbs. Although, the strong and kind have 10 grams of protein -without soy. They have replaced it the pea protein. (Is that any better than soy?)

        I actually just bought a box of those because it was on sale.

        🙁 I’m hoping that wasn’t a mistake!

        • Total carbs include grams of sugar, grams of fiber, and other carbs not specified on the label. Since fiber doesn’t get fully digested, it doesn’t raise the blood sugar much, so ones with more fiber and less sugar are ideal. Either of your choices are good ones! Yes, pea protein is better than soy.

          Happy snacking, Ana!

  3. What would be a great breakfast before morning reformer or circuit Pilates workout? I try to eat 1 hr before the class and had steel cut oats with a little coconut oil this morning.

    • Hi Vanessa, I can’t provide personal nutrition advice in this format, but you may find some insight in this post: The Healthy Breakfast Mistake. Best of luck!

  4. I usually have a banana and yoghurt. Thank you for the information Ana

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