Many people often neglect proper nutrition before heading to the gym... Maybe it's too early in the morning for a heavy snack or you're in such a rush to get to the gym after work you forget to eat something beforehand!
Whether you're a bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast pre-workout nutrition is KEY to enhanced performance and recovery. It's important to properly fuel your body both before and after your workout if you want to speed up your progress.
In this article, we'll answer all your questions about pre-workout nutrition, why it's beneficial to eat before a workout, and appropriate supplements to take before a workout!
When is the best time to eat before a workout?
The timing of your meal plays just as an importance as what you're eating. It's likely you won't want a massive meal 10-15 minutes before your workout, so planning your meal or snack is important.
When we exercise, our body utilizes 2 important energy systems: anaerobic and aerobic (both of which rely on glycolysis). Your body uses carbohydrates and fats to replenish energy stores, thus providing you with sustained energy throughout your workout.
To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a snack or meal containing carbs, protein, and fats. Typically we see improved energy and performance with more carbs and protein to your meal, but keeping it nutrient dense and balanced is ideal.
If you don't plan on training for 2-3 hours, it's a good idea to get a complete meal containing all macronutrients before you head out... So think to increase the calories and density of your pre-workout meal to keep you fueled and satisfied leading up to your workout.
What should I eat 30-45 minutes before a workout?
If you're headed for a morning workout, chances are you might be rushing around the house. It's still important to prioritize your pre-workout nutrition even if you're short on time. Eating 30 minutes before a workout can aid in providing immediate glycogen (energy) and replenishes any loss in energy stores since your last meal.
A smaller meal or snack will be most beneficial in this case. Look for a snack high in protein and carbohydrates. Simple carbs are ideal in this situation as they are quicker to digest and provide the body with short-lasting source of energy (Marengo, 2019).
Look for foods like rice cakes, honey, fruits, milk, and some cereals when crunched on time!
What foods to eat before a workout:
Knowing what to eat before a workout is important when planning your pre-workout meal or snack. Fueling your body with the right nutrients before an intense workout or trianing session will give you the energy and strength you need to perform stronger and longer.
Every macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) play an important role in the providing long-lasting energy for your workout. To take a deeper look into these macronutrients, we will go over each of them and how to incorporate them into your pre-workout meal.
Carbohydrates are one of the primary sources of energy for your body. There are two forms of carbohydrates: simple, high-glycemic carbs and complex, low-glycemic carbs. Simple carbs are faster to digest and broken down more rapidly compared to complex carbs that take longer to digest.
As previously mentioned, simple carbs are ideal for when you're short on time and planning to workout 30-45 in advance. Aim for carb sources such as rice, rice cakes, honey, fruits, milk, and some cereals. A snack like a banana or an apple will digest more quickly compared to a bowl of oatmeal. This will provide the energy your body needs in the short time prior to your workout.
Complex carbs like oatmeal, brown rice, and bread are lower glycemic and take longer to digest. These carbohydrates are good for pre-workout meals that are 2-3 hours prior to exercise. Having a bowl of oatmeal prior to your workout can provide the body a great amount of sustained energy before and during your workout!
Protein is not only essential for after your workout, but also prior to training. Loading up on protein will keep you satisfied longer and help curb your hunger during your workout. We all know that when we start to feel hungry mid-workout, we tend to feel a bit weaker and have a hard time training hard until the end.
Complete proteins like chicken, lean ground turkey and beef, fish, Greek yogurt, and some protein powders are key to adding to your pre-workout meal.
An interesting study found that consuming at least 25 grams of protein before exercise enhanced muscle growth and whole body anabolism compared to those who did not consume protein (West, 2017).
Additionally, protein from a complete protein source can also help stimulate muscle protein syntheses, help fuel muscle tissue, and improve muscle recovery.
Although carbohydrates and protein are key macronutrients for short and high intensity bouts of exercise, fat is a great source of fuel for longer duration workouts.
Fats are also useful for protecting and improving the nervous system, proper hormone production, and aid in nutrient absorption. That said, avoiding fats prior to training isn't necessary!
Foods like eggs, fatty fish, nut butter, and olive oil are all great sources of healthy fats. For some individuals, fat intake prior to exercise may sit heavy on the stomach, making you feel a bit more sluggish. It may be a good idea to keep fat intake minimal before exercise as they are a bit slower to digest than carbs and protein.
What supplements to take before a workout:
Pre-workout supplements come in many forms. Not only do these supplements provide quick energy, but also may enhance performance, improve strength, and increase lean body mass.
Below is a list of the best pre-workout supplements:
Creatine is one of the most beneficial pre-workout supplements that is commonly used in the sports industry. It has been shown to delay fatigue during exercise and also increase muscle mass (Abdalla, 2020).
Creatine can be taken either before or after training for the same lasting results.
In fact, our highly rated Crea+Pump supplements contains both creatine and pump for insane blood flow during training. Click the link to get yours today!
An average American consumes about 135mg of caffeine daily. If you're a gym rat, you're likely nearing 200-300mg per day!
Caffeine has been shown to improve performance, increase strength, and help reduce feelings of fatigue (Richter, 2022).
Whether this is espresso from Starbucks or a scoop of pre-workout, caffeine peaks around 90 minutes after consumption!
One of the most popular supplements to take before a workout... Pre-workout. Pre-workout contains a blend of supplements like caffeine, beta-alanine, and creatine all in one!
The combination of these ingredients may have synergistic effects that essentially improve performance and energy (Harty, 2018). Additionally, pre-workout supplements have been shown to increase work output, strength, reaction time, alertness and focus.
Pre-workout comes in powdered form to add to your water or also seen as an energy drink. Our One Scoop Only Pre-workout provides 375mg of caffeine per scoop, beta-alanine, and NucleoPrime® for insane focus and intense energy.
BCAAs, also known as essential amino acids are a beneficial pre-workout supplement as they have been shown to help decrease muscle damage and increase muscle protein synthesis (Jackman, 2017).
Amino acids such as valine, leucine, and isoleucine are important components of BCAAs that are useful taking prior to exercise. Additionally, BCAA's can also be taken after exercise as they are an excellent supplement to support recovery and building muscle mass.
6 snacks to eat before a workout
So what does an ideal pre-workout snack look like? Pre-workout snacks and meals don't have to be complicated! By following the recommendations above, you should have no problem building your pre-workout snack!
Here are 5 effective snack pairings for a simple pre-workout snack before your next workout:
Greek yogurt parfait
Banana & peanut butter on a rice cake
Fresh fruits: banana, apples, berries, etc.
Trail mix and jerky
If you are more than an hour out from your workout, look for a larger meal full of carbohydrates and high-protein to keep you satisfied longer!
Hydrating before a workout... Just as Important!
Food is not the only thing that should be prioritized before your workout. HYDRATION is also very important. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of adequate water intake is prior, during, and after your workout is!
Water intake is recommended that you drink anywhere between 16-20 ounces of water leading up to your workout. If you're headed to the gym in the morning, try to slam a glass of water right when you wake up.
Proper hydration can look different for everyone as all body sizes differ and require different amounts of water. A good rule of thumb is to aim for drinking half your body weight in ounces. For example... If you weigh 130 pounds, aim for at 65+ ounces of water. It's honestly very beneficial to aim for your entire body weight in ounces as well. Just be sure you aren't OVER doing it!
The main point to take away is that water intake is crucial prior to training. So at minimum, work to have 16-20 ounces leading up to your lift will be a great place to start!
The Bottom Line:
What you eat before a workout can have a big impact on not only your performance in the gym, but also on your overall progress. It's important to remember that to get the most out of your training, choosing the right food sources will help maximize your training performance.
To supply lasting energy throughout your workout, it's advised to make sure you have a snack or meal full of healthy carbohydrates and protein. If you are 30-45 minutes prior to starting your workout, it's a good idea to include simple carbohydrates like white rice, rice cakes, and fruit into your pre-workout snack. If you are 2-3 hours prior to working out, aim for a high calorie meal, full of complex carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat bread paired with a healthy protein source.
Whether it's for the gains or for athletic performance, nutrition plays a key role in preparation and recovery. Try one of our pre-workout supplements for a boost in your pre-workout routine and lasting energy throughout your workout!
West, D. W. D., Abou Sawan, S., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E., & Moore, D. R. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients, 9(7), 735. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9070735
Abdalla, L. H. P., Broxterman, R. M., Greco, C. C., & Denadai, B. S. (2020). Creatine supplementation attenuates the rate of fatigue development during intermittent isometric exercise performed above end-test torque. Experimental physiology, 105(12), 2073–2085. https://doi.org/10.1113/EP088910
Harty, P. S., Zabriskie, H. A., Erickson, J. L., Molling, P. E., Kerksick, C. M., & Jagim, A. R. (2018). Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements, safety implications, and performance outcomes: a brief review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 41. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0247-6
Jackman, S. R., Witard, O. C., Philp, A., Wallis, G. A., Baar, K., & Tipton, K. D. (2017). Branched-Chain Amino Acid Ingestion Stimulates Muscle Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following Resistance Exercise in Humans. Frontiers in physiology, 8, 390. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00390