Pre-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before the Gym & Why
The human body is an extremely complex mechanism.
Everything from the food we eat, how much sleep we get, and how much physical activity we partake in, all play important roles and have different effects on our health.
If you’ve landed on this blog, it’s safe to assume you care about your health.
Athletes and health-conscious people alike are always looking for ways to improve their health.
Good nutrition is arguably one of the most vital keys to living a healthy lifestyle. Having a solid, healthy relationship with food is much like taking care of a bike. You can oil it as much as you want, but if the tire is flat, you’re not going far.
Your body is the same. You can work out to your heart’s content, but if your eating habits are bad, you’re really not doing yourself any favors. A healthy diet will help you perform better and recover faster after exercise, along with improving your overall health.
What you eat prior to exercise is important. Your pre-workout meal will help you maximize your performance and minimize muscle damage. (1)
Here is everything you need to know about pre-workout nutrition:
Nutrients to Emphasize Before a Workout
Your muscles use glucose, a simple-sugar found in most carbohydrates, for energy.
Glycogen is a substance deposited in bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates, mainly in the liver and muscles.
For exercises such as HIIT, or any activity that is short but high in intensity, your main energy source will be glycogen stores in your body. (2)
For longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors; including intensity, training type and overall diet.
Since your body’s glycogen stores are limited, as they become depleted, your productivity and intensity will diminish.
Be sure to get your carbohydrates from a quality source, such as sweet potato, whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice, or fruits and veggies.
All in all, carbs help maximize glycogen stores for high intensity exercises, such as HIIT.
There are countless studies which document the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to help improve muscle protein synthesis and athletic performance. (3)
Eating protein before your workout can help provide a better anabolic response, which is the process in which your muscles receive a net-gain in protein, aka, muscle growth.
Likewise, protein provides you with amino acids, which your body uses to build muscle. (4)
Other benefits include improved muscle recovery, increased strength, muscle mass, and muscle performance.
Be careful though; more isn’t always better. Research suggests roughly one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is plenty to maximize muscle growth.
Overloading your body with protein can cause problems such as kidney damage, and can contribute to an imbalance in the acidity of your blood.
While it is important to get your protein, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle, make sure you’re getting a reasonable amount for your body type and weight.
A good source of protein can be whey protein blended into a smoothie, a few scrambled eggs or some slices of deli turkey.
Fat takes the longest to digest; then protein, the carbs. Thus, your pre-workout meal should be low on fat, moderate on protein, and high in healthy carbs.
Since fats take long to digest, consuming them before your workout won’t provide any energy; it can also trigger digestive strain and create feelings of exhaustion and sluggishness. (5)
Moderate servings of healthy fat (not unsaturated fat) are okay before a workout. A tablespoon of peanut butter on a whole-wheat bagel, or whole grain cereal with almonds is an excellent choice for a pre-workout meal. Saturated fat and even large portions of healthy fat aren’t going to help your performance.
Timing is Key
When you eat your pre-workout out meal is almost just as important as what you eat.
It is optimal to consume a complete meal containing carbs, protein, and little fat 2-3 hours before your workout.
If you are not able to get in a full meal 2-3 hours before working out, you can still eat a decent pre-workout meal. Keep in mind that the sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and more simple the meal should be.
45-60 minutes before your workout, choose foods that are easy to digest and are high in carbs with moderate protein. (6)
Examples of Pre-Workout Meals:
2-3 Hours Before Your Workout:
-Egg omelet on whole grain toast topped with avocado slices and a piece of fruit (peach, apple, banana, etc.)
-Sandwich on whole grain bread, lean protein and side salad
-Lean protein (such a ground turkey or chicken breast), served with brown rice and roasted vegetables
2 Hours Before:
-Protein Smoothie made with protein powder, milk, bananas and/or mixed berries
-Almond butter and fruit jelly sandwich (whole grain bread)
1 Hour or Less:
-Nutrition bar (with protein)
-Piece of fruit (banana, apple, orange)
-Greek yogurt + fruit
Supplements Can Be Beneficial Too
Supplements are commonly used in the gym and sports. Supplements have the ability to enhance performance, improve strength, and increase lean body mass, all while reducing fatigue.
You have the usual commodities, such as creatine and BCAA’s, and while these can be helpful, we have taken time, effort, and countless resources to develop a supplement that will give you all the aforementioned points in one serving.
OptiNOs is a nitric oxide booster and muscle builder that also improves lactic acid clearance. (7)
NO (nitric oxide) boosters dilate your body’s blood vessels, allowing more nutrients (like oxygen and amino acids) to flow through and get where they need to go faster than usual, giving you an amazing pump that will allow you to power through your workout.
OptiNOs simultaneously works to stimulate pathways in your body to promote the anabolic process, which as we know from above, is the process in which your muscles grow.
Before you ask, yes, OptiNOs ability to maximize your body’s ability to build muscle by directing the protein you consume specifically for muscle building is backed by clinical studies.
Now that we’ve decided on a good muscle builder + NO booster, it is important to choose a good pre-workout too. How do you choose a good pre-workout you ask? I wrote an in-depth blog called “Pre-Workout 101” that will give a deeper insight into pre-workout, what ingredients are good, and which ones you want to avoid.
But in a nutshell, you want something with a decent amount of NATURAL caffeine (not all caffeine is synthetic), and preferably something that does NOT have proprietary blends. (You can read about why you want to avoid those in the pre-workout blog I mentioned above)
OptiForce, for example, is an all-natural pre-workout supplement which contains over 14 grams of active ingredients that help improve performance. (8)
The combination of these active ingredients work together synergistically to give you an explosive source of energy.
The caffeine in OptiForce is all-natural caffeine derived from green tea and green coffee bean. These two sources supply clean energy without the crash or jitters you’d get from an energy drink or other unbalanced pre-workouts containing proprietary blends.
Hydration is Essential
Your body needs water to survive.
Good hydration has been shown to sustain and even improve performance, whereas dehydration will decrease performance, often leaving you with cramps, headaches, or worse.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
· About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
· About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
(With the majority of the fluids being water)
All In All…
It is important to fuel your body with the proper nutrition before a workout; this will help you maximize performance and recovery.
It is equally as important to stay hydrated.
Additionally, supplements can support performance and stimulate recovery.
All things considered, proper pre-workout practices are the key to helping you perform better and recover faster.