Pre-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before a Workout
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always looking for ways to improve their performance and achieve their goals.
Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout.
Optimal nutrient intake prior to exercise will not only help you maximize your performance but also minimize muscle damage (1).
Here is everything you need to know about pre-workout nutrition.
What to Eat
Because glucose is the preferred energy source for most exercise, a pre-exercise meal should include foods that are high in carbs and easy to digest, such as pasta, fruit, bread, energy bars, and energy drinks.
The type of carb you choose also matters. If you’re attending an endurance event, go with a carb with a low glycemic index (GI). Low-GI carbs don’t raise the blood sugar quickly but rather maintain glucose levels at a steady state for a longer period of time. These include such foods as oatmeal and anything whole grain.
If your activity is short but intense, skip the whole grains and go instead for high-GI refined grains the raise the blood sugar quickly and give you a burst of energy off the starting blocks.
Good foods to eat before a workout
Now that you know what foods are best not to consume before a workout, let’s focus on some healthy pre-workout foods that’ll make you feel good and help you achieve your goals.
As you get closer to your workout time, carbs with a little bit of protein should be your main focus. If you only have one to two hours before your workout, keep your snack light (preferably under 200 calories, more if your goal is to gain weight or muscle). This mixed carb-protein snack will help you feel satisfied, energized and may also help reduce muscle soreness post-workout.
Snacks are always best consumed two to three hours before working out, but these foods are still ok to eat up to 30 minutes before a workout, is long as they digest quickly and easily. The less time you have, the lighter your food should be. Here are some healthy pre-workout snacks so you can fuel your body effectively:
Consuming a fruit smoothie before exercising is a healthy pre-workout meal option that can provide you with a good source of fast-acting glucose. They’re super quick to make, just use your favorite sliced fruit and some Greek yogurt for protein and a thicker consistency. It’s best to make it yourself, but if you’re picking one up, just check the label to make sure it’s got wholesome ingredients and no added sugar.
Because they are full of fiber, oats release carbohydrates gradually. Due to this slow release, energy levels are kept consistent throughout your workout, meaning you can train harder for longer. They also contain Vitamin B, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy. Irish oats are often considered the best, as they are the least processed type and boast a lower glycemic load than quick-cooking and instant oats. So, keep a look out the next time you go shopping.
It’s best to get your body hydrated before you even think about heading to the gym. One way to determine your overall hydration status is to check out the color of your urine first thing in the morning. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lemonade-colored urine is a sign of appropriate hydration, while dark colored urine (think apple juice), indicates a deficit in H20.
While there is no one-size-fits-all method to determining fluid needs during exercise, a good place to start is drinking about 2 cups of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise and 1 cup of water 10 to 20 minutes before working out. The goal here is to minimize dehydration—which can cause low energy, and muscle cramps or spasms—without drinking too much water. You should try to also stay hydrated throughout your workout. Again, this may take a bit of experimentation until you find what works best for your body.
Protein supplies amino acids, and both are essential for a range of bodily functions, including the building, maintenance, and repair of muscle fibers.
Eating a meal that contains a significant amount of lean protein before exercising can help to improve performance.
Why is protein a good pre-workout food?
Consuming high-protein foods such as salmon before a workout can increase gains in muscle mass.
Protein can increase the amount of muscle mass gained from a resistance workout.
Intense bouts of resistance exercise damage the muscles, but consuming protein increases the number of amino acids in the body. These work to reduce deterioration, synthesize muscle proteins, and stimulate growth.
Consuming 20–30 grams of protein before a workout can result in an increased rate of muscle protein synthesis that lasts for several hours.
They’re usually fat-free, which makes them quick-digesting, healthy pre-workout snack. Just make sure your rice cakes don’t have added sugar, then spread on a thin layer of some nut butter or hummus for a touch of protein.
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