There are lots of opinions about how to eat before a workout.  Some say eating a pre-exercise meal gives them the energy they need to keep up the pace or go the distance.  Others say food sits like a gut bomb and gives them cramps. We all grew up with Mom's rule about no swimming for an hour after lunch.  Who's got the right answer?  Mom comes closest.

Anything you eat right before you workout is unlikely to digest enough to provide the fuel your muscles need immediately to perform well.  Instead, your body uses stored energy. The major source of fuel for active muscles is glycogen, broken down from carbohydrates and stored in muscles hours and days before exercise. That's why many athletes do carbo-loads the night before big events; so they have time to digest and store fuel. 

Working out on a completely empty stomach isn't your best bet either as low blood sugar can cause rapid fatigue. Many athletes snack before they lace up their shoes.  But what's best to eat?

The American College of Sports Medicine says, "Research suggests meals with a low or moderate glycemic index provide sustained energy to significantly boost exercise capacity, increase endurance, and extend the time before you need to refuel."

What's a glycemic index?  It's a nutritional tool that suggests how fast the glucose in common foods respond to insulin, is digested and absorbed into the blood.  Many food factors work together to affect this rate including the amount of fiber and sugar in the food and even cooking method. Typically, foods with a low glycemic index have high fiber content (like apples and bran cereal) and only elevate blood sugar moderately.  Foods with a moderate gycemic index include oatmeal and bananas.  Donuts have a high glycemic value. They break down into glucose that enters the blood stream and elevates blood glucose levels quickly. They also cause a large release of insulin that subsequently slams blood sugar to the ground. That's no way to start a workout.

Your best nutrition plan is to maintain a consistent, balanced healthy diet.  If you know you'll be doing a big weekend run or all-day soccer tournament; load up on healthy carbohydrates like whole grain pasta, along with lean protein and healthy fats for a few days before your event.  An hour or two before you exercise, have a small meal or snack that includes whole grain bread, cereal, fruit or yogurt.  Include a little protein for a longer lasting fuel supply.  Toast and peanut butter are good choices.  When you finish your workout, a healthy meal provides the fuel your body needs for cell recovery.