What To Eat Before A Workout:
Proper nutrition before you exercise is essential. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or somebody who is just getting into fitness, learning what to eat before a workout can help you improve your performance and better achieve your goals.
The right nutrition will also help your body recover faster and reduce muscle damage after a tough workout.
This guide will give you everything that you need to know about pre-workout nutrition!
Let’s Breakdown the Different Macronutrients
Before we get into the best foods before a workout, let's breakdown the different macronutrients that make up all of the different foods that we eat. Understanding this is important because you need to feel your body properly so that you have the energy you need to complete your workout.
The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each one performs a specific role in our bodies, but the ratio that we consume them in will vary depending on what type of workout you are about to complete.
Here is an overview of the macros in more detail:
Protein is an important macro that improves our recovery time and facilitates muscle protein synthesis. This is especially true if you consume protein before you exercise, and countless studies have shown that it will improve your athletic performance.
Boosted strength, anabolic response, and muscle growth are other benefits of eating protein before you work out.
Carbs are the primary source of fuel that our bodies use to help us power through a high-intensity exercise routine. Consuming carbs before a workout will enhance your glycogen stores, and your muscles will use the glucose from the carbs you ate for fuel.
As we exercise, the glycogen that is stored in your muscles is slowly depleted. When this happens, the intensity and output that you are capable of in your workout will start to diminish. By increasing the amount of glycogen that you have stored, you will improve your exercise performance as well as carb oxidation during the workout.
You may have heard of carb-loading, which refers to consuming a large number of carbs before a major athletic event. The goal of doing this is to supply your muscles with enough glucose to maximize your glycogen stores for intense exercise.
You may be thinking that fat is not necessary before a workout, especially if you're trying to lose weight or get lean. However, the fat you consume before you exercise is perfect to help you fuel your muscles for longer, but less intense exercise routines.
Although we use glucose for high intensity but short rounds of exercise, our bodies burn fat to sustain longer endurance workouts.
What Should You Eat Before a Workout?
Now that you have an understanding of the different macronutrients that make up your meals, let's get into what you should eat before a workout - and when.
Timing your meal is vital - and getting the macronutrients right can make the difference between a great workout and one that you can barely get through.
2-3 Hours Before Your Workout
Ideally, aim to eat a full meal two to three hours before you start your workout. This means that your meal should contain all the macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat.
Consider meals like an omelet alongside whole-grain toast with an avocado spread and a cup of fruit. If you work out in the evenings and are not looking for breakfast foods, try a meal that includes lean protein, vegetables, and some Brown rice for the carbs. Other options include a sandwich with lean protein and a side salad.
Although eating two to three hours before you exercise may not always be possible, this should be the goal because it will help you maximize the results of your workout.
An Hour Before Your Workout
Let's say that you can't get in a full meal two to three hours before your workout, but you can eat about an hour before. Try to eat a good meal, but because you're closer to the workout it should be smaller and simpler than the complete meal described above.
This will help you avoid any stomach discomfort while you exercise - we all know that feeling of eating too close to a workout and then regretting it later!
The best foods before a workout in this situation are those that are easy to digest and focus on protein and carbs. Even though fat is important, you should only have it if you have more time before your meal since that takes longer to process.
For instance, try a cup of oatmeal with some almonds and banana slices as toppings or a protein smoothie with mixed berries. Some other good options include whole-grain cereal with milk or natural almond butter spread on whole-grain toast.
Less Than an Hour Before Your Workout
If you are eating less than an hour before your workout, you are cutting it a little bit close. However, eating something small and light is better than eating nothing at all!
This situation is not ideal, but if you find yourself having to eat less than an hour before you start your exercise routine you may need to experiment with different snacks to see what works best for your body.
We suggest something small like a nutrition bar that is packed with protein and quality ingredients, or a piece of fruit like an apple or a banana. Greek yogurt is also a viable option!
You Can’t Forget Hydration!
We have focused quite a bit on what you should eat before a workout, but you can't forget about hydration. Our bodies cannot function without water and being hydrated can not only help performance but also allow us to have greater endurance and recover more quickly.
If you are dehydrated, your performance will take a hit and you will notice that you will not be able to exercise at the level you might be used to otherwise.
You should drink both water and sodium before you work out so that you can maximize fluid balance.
Remember that if you plan on completing an intense workout, you will likely sweat a lot. Proper hydration will prevent you from losing too many fluids and ensure that your body can recover.
We would be remiss to build a guide for the best foods before a workout and not discuss any pre-workout supplements!
Supplements are commonly used by athletes to help them enhance their performance, reduce fatigue, and increase strength in lean body mass.
Here are some of the most common pre-workout ingredients:
If you are like most people, you probably start your day off with a cup of coffee. The caffeine in your coffee can help you feel more awake and reduce the feeling of fatigue, but how does this play into pre-workout nutrition?
Caffeine can also be found in pre-workout supplements because it can improve your workout performance, stimulate fat burning, and increase your strength and power. The effects of caffeine peak at around 90 minutes post-consumption, but it can be useful even if taken between 30 to 60 minutes before you work out.
Whether you consume your caffeine in coffee, tea, or a pre-workout drink, the effects should be the same!
Creatine is another pre-workout supplement that can delay fatigue while allowing you to increase muscle math, power, and strength.
The benefits of taking creatine before a workout are evident, but it tends to be more effective if you consume it after you have already finished exercising.
BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids, refer to the following essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, and valine.
Consuming these amino acids before a workout can facilitate muscle protein synthesis while simultaneously working to decrease the muscle damage that occurs during exercise. It is recommended that you take at least 5 grams of BCAAs at least one hour before your workout begins.
What About All of Them Together?
Many of the pre-workout supplements on the market contain a combination of what we just mentioned above. Consuming all of them together can have a synergistic effect and significantly boost your energy levels and performance.
The dosage will vary depending on the type of exercise you're doing, but it is generally recommended that you take a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement at least 30 minutes before exercising.
Summarizing Pre-Workout Nutrition
To summarize everything that we've discussed, pre-workout nutrition – both when you eat and what – is essential to maximizing performance and getting the most out of your workouts.
The balance of protein, carbs, and fat that you consume in your pre-workout meal should be decided based on how much time is left before you exercise. If you have at least two to three hours before your workout, have a full meal - but if you've only got a few minutes, go for something small like a protein bar.
Hydration is extremely important, so it doesn't matter how well you eat if you're not properly hydrated.
If you'd like, you can also incorporate some pre-workout supplements to further enhance your energy levels and endurance.