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Pro-Tips from Our Private Gym in Durham: The WORST Foods to Eat Before Working Out

We are continuing our fantastic series with famed personal trainer Phillip Goglia! We have disussed proper hydration, diet, and overall fitness! Today we are taking nutrition one step further and reviewing foods NOT to eat before you workout! If you’re loving this series and feel inspired to reboot your fitness and diet plan, come chat with our Durham personal trainers to get started on a healthier you!

We hope you Durham fitness lovers enjoy this article! And as always, thank you Dr. Goglia for your excellent insight!


The ‘NO” Pre-Workout Food List:

  1. Leafy Greens : prior to workout leafy greens will create the risk of abdominal distention, gas, and bloating. Greens are a great source of minerals and antioxidants, but are primarily useful for digestion and NOT as an energizing pre-workout meal
  2. Chocolate Milk : Prior to working out, the use of dairy and its sugars – maltose and lactose – will cause bloating and digestive discomfort. Additionally the sugars found in dairy are inflammatory and mucus producing. In fact, they inhibit the full use of our oxygen pathways. This is why when you speak to athletes and ask them about their dairy consumption, they will all tell you that they do not consume any dairy pre or post-workout as it is like eating moderately hard phlegm. Most of all, dairy can contribute to elevated triglyceride levels and inflammation.
  3. Whole Grain Breads and Muffins: Stay away from carbohydrates that are yeast mold and gluten bound. They are inflammatory, water retentive, and ultimately inflammatory. They provide energy obviously as they are a sugar — but the side effects far out weigh the benefit of sugar energy as a pre-workout meal.
  4. Last night’s Pad Thai: The convenient but bad pre-workout move. These heavy foods lots of digestion time and will hinder workout intensity and fat utilization. Mostly it will set you up for a nap rather than a workout!
  5. Sports Drinks: NOT prior to a workout. Many of these sports drinks are high sodium and sugar and contain caffeine, all of which will cause digestive discomfort and a type of energy that will be “spikey” at best. These sports drinks over load our cells with electrolytes prior to depletion — at which point your body will have difficulty establishing a sweat rate and its ability to manage an appropriate temperature while training. The result will be poor performance during your workout
  6. Protein Bars: There is NO such thing as a protein bar — Does your PROTEIN bar taste like salmon – chicken – steak ? Doubtful!  Chances are your favorite protein bar has some kind of low grade protein in it. If you must choose to use a pre-workout bar make sure it is one that offers up honest marketing that is a health 50 / 50 split of sugar and fat to be used for sustainable workout energy — examples are a bonk breaker bar. This is my favorite choice and the choice of cyclists and multi sport athletes. The other OK choices are a KIND bar or CLIFF bar – all solid choices.
  7. No foods with saturated fats that require long digestive periods

How does what you eat affect your energy level/ability to exercise?

Foods prior to exercise should be strategically consumed based on the time spent exercising and the type of exercise, ie. weights vs endurance or aerobic sport. The wrong foods or hydration choose will greatly reduce your training intensity and your results

Anything else you think is important to add to this article?

There are so many pre-training foods to choose from on the market! I say keep it simple and basic! A pre-training, 90 min or less, low-glycemic meal should be approx 200 calories with a fairly even split of sugar and fat, providing sustainable even energy.  All of my athletes either use a bonk breaker bar or they keep it even simpler : 1 fruit with 1 tbsp of almond butter. Again, keep it simple — no fake science!


Meet Dr. Philip Goglia
President & Founder of Performance Fitness Concepts

Dr. Philip Goglia  has been a certified nutritionist for over 30 years and holds a PhD in Nutritional Science in addition to being a graduate of Duke University, The American College of Sports Medicine and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. His nutritional expertise is fully measurable, with the proven ability to take all of his clients and athletes to the highest level of their performance and competitive abilities. He has a pedigree of athletic history himself as a high school and collegiate All-American wrestler, a storied 12 year history as a rugby player, a Mr. North America bodybuilding champion, and a Grand-Am motorsports race car driver.

Dr. Goglia’s bestselling book, “Turn up the Heat – Unlock the Fat Burning Power of Your Metabolism” is an acclaimed “Best Seller” and was featured on E! Entertainment, CNN, People Magazine, In Touch, Life and Style, In style, Men’s Fitness and Vogue. He is the official nutritional consultant for the Dr. Phil show and The Doctors television shows, and was the nutritionist for Jennifer Grey, for her season 11 win on Dancing with the Stars (and the oldest winner).

Having been a three time cancer survivor and once told that he would never walk correctly again or play a sport, he fully understands the commitment it takes to emotionally and physically take a stand for health and well-being. Daily, he supports his clients to overcome their wellness obstacles through the use of his years of education, life experience and wisdom.


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