Why this RD encourages you to eat Pop-Tarts pre-workout good + good

WWhen Christy Bauman’s clients seek advice for a pre-run snack, the dietitian often makes a somewhat surprising recommendation: Pop-Tarts.

Bauman, who specializes in working with distance runners, recently shared on her Instagram how, although Pop-Tarts are often demonized as “junk food,” they actually contain what athletes need before a run: easily digestible, simple carbohydrates that are quickly metabolized. Either will not cause energy and GI problems.

It’s a recommendation that shocks runners and non-runners alike, he says, since there’s a misconception that exercise should be fueled by non-processed foods or foods we think of as “healthy.”

But in reality, Bauman says, simple carbohydrates (including sugar!) are a runner’s best friend. Reaching for a Pop-Tart can give your pre-run snack not only a nutritional upgrade, but also a fun and convenient one.

What to Look for in Pre-Run Snacks

For Bauman, the first order of business is often convincing clients to eat something Before a run. Not only can it improve your performance by providing extra strength, but it can actually be a key injury-prevention tool. If you run for too long on an empty stomach, your body may begin to break down protein for fuel, which means it’s depleting your muscles of amino acids, putting you at greater risk of injury.

“There are so many benefits to eating in addition to feeling good during your run,” she says.

The best kind of pre-run snack gives you a quick source of energy without causing GI issues or sitting too heavy on your stomach. This means you want to look for foods that are high in simple carbohydrates (which, unlike complex carbs, are digested quickly for an instant energy boost), and low in fiber and fat, which are harder to digest and can upset your stomach.

Pop-Tarts are the pre-workout thing

The Pop-Tart fits the bill when it comes to its nutritional profile: It’s full of simple carbohydrates, both on the bready exterior and filling on the inside, Bauman says, and it contains almost no fiber, which reduces the risk of a mid-run dash to the bathroom. Plus, each tart has about 34 grams of carb density: Compare that to a banana classic pre-run snack—which has an average of 28 carbs but is usually larger than a Pop-Tart—and you’ve got more bang for your proverbial buck and less food. Sit on your stomach as you run.

Pop-Tarts are also super convenient—Bauman says he’s literally eating one on his way out the door for his runs. And you can’t discount the joy of having a nostalgic childhood throwback. But the real proof is in the pudding (or should we say frosting?): “I’ve had a lot of runners try it and say it helped them a lot,” Bauman says.

Why runners shouldn’t ditch certain foods

Pop-Tarts aren’t the only sweet foods that can fuel your run: Bauman says candy (think gummy worms and Swedish fish rather than chocolate), dry sugary kids’ cereals (like Lucky Charms), stroopwaffles, graham crackers, and eggnog waffles are all high in simple carbs. And check the low fiber box.

While these snacks may not be something we think of as part of a healthy diet, Bauman says it’s important not to think of foods as “good” or “bad” — all foods can serve a purpose in our lives, including before a run. “We have to look at the bigger picture,” he says. “There is absolutely a time and a place for all foods to fit.”

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