Pre-Workout Nutrition: What Should I Eat Before a Workout?
Your pre-workout meal is just as important as your post-workout meal. No matter what goal you have for yourself: losing weight, gaining muscle, and/or improving your overall health, pre and post workout nutrition is essential to helping you reach your results in the gym!
Not sure of what a well-balance pre-workout meal looks like? Good news! Today's blog post shares everything you need to know about proper nutrition for before you hit the gym!
A tough pill to swallow: All the time and effort put into the gym means nothing if your diet and nutrition is not in check. Ouch. Right? Pre & post workout nutrition is essential when you're looking for results in the gym. Our bodies are unique, so we must fuel them not only well, but also enough nutrients to function at our best!
It may be easy to skip that pre-workout morning bowl of oatmeal or start running errands and forget your post workout snack or meal. However, it is important to remember that these little things may be affecting your gains!
Now, we don't want to create an unhealthy obsession with food, or fixate way too much on what we are eating and when we are eating. But it is important to be aware of proper nutrition to fuel your training!
So what does that look like? Proper nutrition may seem overwhelming and that is why we are here to help! Keep reading to get all the information you need about proper pre-workout nutrition!
Why should you eat before a workout?
Your pre-workout meal is easily one of the most important meals throughout your day. This meal is going to give you energy for your workout, fuel training during your workout, and contribute to recovery and results much faster.
Think of it this way: You need to put gas into your car to make it go. It is the same case for your body. You need to put fuel (food) into your body in order for it to function and work properly!
This is why pre-workout nutrition is so important. The meal in itself will benefit you in so many ways!
What to eat before a workout:
There is no perfect pre-workout meal, but there is importance in what foods and how much you are consuming prior to training.
Now, it is quite obvious that a Little Debbies Cupcake is not going to be the right fuel source, so let's look into the proper macros & nutrients for your meal.
A meal is broken down into 3 important macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein. We have written many detailed posts about these essential macros, but for now, we are going to focus on the importance they serve for your pre & post workout meal!
Okay.. So what should you eat? Meals are going to look different for everyone, so these general guidelines are simply suggestions based on research and studies.
Carbohydratesare going to be your friend for pre-workout snacks and meals. Carbs come in 2 forms: complex & low-glycemic (simple) carbs. Complex carbs are going to give you longer lasting energy as simple carbs digest much quicker! This is why the timing of your pre-workout meal and choosing of which carbohydrate to consume is important!
Complex carb examples:Oatmeal, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat bread, brown rice
Protein is essential to your diet no matter before or after your workout. Protein also aids in fueling your training as well as curbing hunger and staying full throughout your workout. Protein can also help fuel your muscles during muscle tissue breakdown (strength training) and work towards building muscle.
Protein examples:Fish, chicken, turkey, lean beef, Greek yogurt, milk, soy, nuts, etc.
Fatsdigest much slower and are usually recommended to keep low for a pre-workout meal. This is because they take much longer to digest, often leaving your belly feel full and sluggish. It is also important to note that fats are useful for hormone production, improving the nervous system, and nutrient absorption, so making sure healthy fats are in your diet is essential!
A well-balanced snack or meal is going to be ideal recommendation to proper pre-workout nutrition. This will ensure enough fuel for before, during, and after your training!
Timing your pre-workout meal:
Now that we have an understanding on why our pre-workout meal or snack is so important, it is important to understand meal timing and correlate these meals with timing prior to training.
30-60 minutes before training, you're not going to want to have a huge meal that is going to leave you stuffed and sluggish during your workout. With this amount of time, it is key to keep it simple, but also enough to have effects of lasting energy. Simple carbs are going to be the best bet when looking for a quick pre-workout snack or a boost in energy for the small window prior to training.
For example, if you have a 30 minute drive to the gym and need a quick snack, a banana (simple & high glycemic carb) is going to be better than downing a heavy protein shake.
60-120 minutes before training, a heavy protein shake or a big bowl of oatmeal is going to be the answer. Complex carbs are going to be ideal with this 60-120 minute time period before training. This is because these carbs are going to give you lasting energy for a greater amount of time.
Pre-workout meals/snack examples:
30-60 minutes prior to training:
Greek yogurt, berries, granola
Lean protein source with white rice
Protein shake and fruit
Toast, nut butter, banana
Granola bar or protein bar
Bowl of cereal
60-120 minutes prior to training:
Oatmeal, protein powder, nut butter, berries
Toast, eggs, avocado, berries
Chicken, sweet potatoes, and veggies
Protein shake with fruit, protein powder, milk, and nut butter
Post-Workout Nutrition: Rule of thumb
There is much debate on post-workout protein and whether or not you should down a protein shake immediately after stepping foot out of the gym. However, it is safe to say that although it is important to get your nutrients in fast to restore and replenish the muscle-break down, you can wait until you get home!
A general rule of thumb when consuming your post-workout meal or snack is to have a well-balanced meal full of protein, carbs, and fats. Protein is an essential post-workout macronutrient that helps restore and stimulate muscle protein synthesis (a process that naturally occurs, which repairs muscle breakdown).
It is suggested to consume about 20-30 grams of lean protein and 30-40 grams of healthy carbohydrates post-workout. Additionally, some people might have a hard time consuming food right after their workout, so that is why a post-workout shake filled with protein and healthy carbohydrates is recommended!
Take Home Key Points:
Pre-workout nutrition is just as important as post-workout nutrition.
The body needs proper nutrient intake (fuel) to work and function at its best.
Carbohydrates, both simple and complex, provide you with energy (either short or long lasting) to get you through your workout.
Meals 30-60 minutes prior to training should have an adequate amount of simple carbs.
Meals 60-120 minutes prior to training should have a balance of protein, complex carbs, and fats.
Post-workout nutrition is vital for replenishing and restoring the muscle tissue that was just broken down.
Remember, we are working out and fueling our bodies to make us feel better and stronger. It is important to fuel your body with enough fuel to have it work at its best! Next time you're feeling low energy and are headed to the gym on a fasted stomach, grab a banana or a piece of toast and peanut butter for the road!
Emmie Satrazemis, RD. “Pre Workout Meals: What and When to Eat Before the Gym.” Trifecta, Trifecta, 22 June 2021, www.trifectanutrition.com/blog/pre-workout-meals-what-and-when-to-eat-before-the-gym.
Grumke, Will. “What Should I Eat Before a Workout?” 1st Phorm, 1st Phorm, 4 Nov. 2019, 1stphorm.com/blogs/news/what-should-i-eat-before-a-workout.
Mohr, Contributors: Christopher R. “Timing Your Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition.” EatRight, www.eatright.org/fitness/exercise/exercise-nutrition/timing-your-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition.
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