What you eat before you exercise is very important, but there are a few things to consider when planning a pre-exercise meal. The type of activity you are doing, what time of day you are exercising, and how long you plan to exercise are all things you want to think about. Another important factor is hydration.

First off, if you are lifting weights or your activity is power-driven (lots of force for a short time), a protein shake may suit your needs. If you are planning a run, cardio class or a long hike, you will want to eat carbohydrates to prepare for the distance.

No matter what, if you eat something, make sure to allow at least 30 minutes to digest before exercise; if it is a large meal, one to two hours may be needed before exercising.

The duration of your exercise is key; if you’re working out for more than an hour, you need to refuel. GU and Shot Bloks are great ways to regenerate your system and give you the fuel you need to sustain the activity you are doing.

The time of day you work out is crucial. If you are an early riser and work out first thing in the morning, eating something may not be in your best interest. A cup of coffee and a little water usually does the trick. If, however, you’re the type of person that needs something in your stomach, a very light carbohydrate is best. Try a banana, a piece of whole wheat toast, a couple of bites of an energy bar or some dry cereal with a little yogurt. Keep your portion small.

Water and electrolytes are essential to all exercises. Drink plenty before, during and after exercise. Usually, a few ounces 30 minutes before exercise, and then a few more ounces every 10 to 15 minutes 30 minutes later will keep you hydrated. Be careful not to drink too much; if you feel sloshing around in your stomach, you drank too much, possibly too often.

It’s very important to avoid high-fat, high-protein foods before exercise. Without getting into too much science here, protein is very hard to break down and does not provide energy. Your body only uses protein as fuel if it absolutely has to, and you don’t ever want this to happen, especially since you could end up vomiting during exercise.

Sometimes, making sure you eat right can be intimidating, especially with all the hype about avoiding certain foods. Keep what you eat as natural as possible, and stick to natural foods you like. And always remember: You’re worth it!