Everyone loves to talk about your post-workout meal – how much protein it should have, whether it should have carbs and fats, and how soon after the end of the session, you need to have it.
While that’s all important for triggering muscle protein synthesis and maximizing your gains, what you eat before you train is also of key importance.
Pre-workout nutrition can determine the quality of your workout, as it’s what will give you the needed energy to perform to your best and get the most out of a session. In this article, written in collaboration with our friends at WBCM – https://blog.warmbody-coldmind.com/, we’re going to discuss some of the best foods you can eat prior to a workout and why that is. Of course, you can trust their advice, as the authors are reputable coaches and athletes in weightlifting and other strength sports.
What Your Pre-Workout Meal Should Consist Of
Instead of giving you a bunch of meal examples, we will explain to you what macronutrients your pre-workout meal should have so that you can create your own healthy combinations based on your preferences, and so you know what’s good for your body and what isn’t.
Giving your body the nutrients it needs prior to a training session will ensure you have enough strength and energy to perform at your best, and each macronutrient plays a key role in that process.
With that said, the ratio of nutrients you need to consume depends on your needs and the kind of workout you will be doing.
Carbs are our body’s primary and preferred fuel for all activities, from thinking to walking and training. Having said that, our glycogen stores are limited, which means that we can store a small amount of carbs before we either use them up, or they turn to fat – that’s why the way we consume them around our workouts is of key importance.
Before high-intensity and relatively short training sessions, you might need just a small banana or an apple. However, if you plan on going for longer runs or training for hours, you have to combine carbs with other macronutrients.
Countless studies have confirmed that protein in your pre-workout meal has the potential to improve performance.
Consuming protein (on its own or in combination with carbs) prior to exercise has been studied to increase muscle protein synthesis and thus boost recovery and increase lean muscle mass, which is what most athletes and regular gym-goers desire, not to mention the fact that protein makes meals more satiating and so gives your body fuel for longer.
As we discussed, our glycogen stores are limited, and when we’ve depleted them, our bodies turn to fat as the main source of fuel. This typically happens during longer, moderate, or low-intensity exercise such as long-distance running or biking.
With that said, going fat-heavy on your pre-workout meal is not recommended as it will make it more difficult to digest and heavy on your stomach.
Timing Is of Key Importance
Along with the macronutrients it has, the timing of your meal is also extremely important. To get the best out of your training, you ideally want to have a complete meal with protein, carbs, and fats around 2-3 hours before a training session.
This is particularly true for longer workouts that last more than one hour and require you to work your hardest the entire time. For shorter workouts, around 30 minutes to an hour, the effect of pre-workout nutrition isn’t as impactful, according to numerous studies.
Having said that, if you can’t eat a full meal and then wait 2-3 hours before you begin your workout, you should aim for something simpler and smaller that your body can easily digest.
Usually, that’s a meal that contains mostly carbs with some protein so that it doesn’t upset the stomach and cause discomfort during the workout.
An example here would be a bagel with some cream cheese and ham or a protein shake with a banana – what’s important here is to find a combination you enjoy and that your body is used to so that you can be fueled and ready to go in less than an hour after consuming the meal.
If you want to be training at a high level and get better results over time at the gym, then you need to consider your pre-workout nutrition.
A good meal for a longer session should be consumed 2-3 hours prior and contain all three macronutrients.
However, if you don’t have the time to wait that long before working out, a quick snack containing some protein and a healthy carb is the way to go – as long as you find a combination you enjoy and that your body tolerates well.
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