Pre-Workout Nutrition

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The Definitive Guide to Pre-Workout Nutrition

Does pre-workout nutrition even matter? Should you eat protein before you train? Carbohydrates? Fats? If so, what types and amounts of food are best? Or will eating before training have no appreciable effect on your performance or results? In this post you will find the answers to all the questions regarding pre-workout nutrition. You will find out what exactly should you eat before you train in order to perform at your best during the intense workout.

How you perform in your training sessions is going to be determined a fair bit by what you eat in the time leading up to it. Next to breakfast, pre- and post-workout meals are the most important components of your sports nutrition program. Consuming the best blend and quantity of nutrients prior to training will enable you to sustain a more intense level of activity for a longer period of time and improve your performance (strength, endurance). If you skip your pre-workout meal you will never perform at your peak. Skipping meals before exercise may cause fatigue, dizziness, poor performance, and low energy.  The following tips will help you fine-tune your food intake before your workout.

The Role of a Pre-Workout Training Meal

The main role of a pre-workout meal is to energize your body by providing muscle glycogen and amino acids for energy use during weight training. Your pre-workout meal consists of:
(a) Adequate good quality carbohydrate to increase muscle glycogen stores;
(b) Adequate good quality protein to supply amino acids such as BCAAs;
Pre-workout training meal will help you to push and pull the weights with optimum power and strength and assures that your muscles are optimally nourished.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Choosing Appropriate Pre-Workout Carbs

Since a weight training workout is fueled primarily by the muscle glycogen stores, the main purpose of a pre-workout carbohydrates is to: (a) increase glucose storage as muscle glycogen (fill up the muscle glycogen), and (b) maintain blood glucose and steady insulin levels throughout the weight training session.

Pre-workout carbohydrates should never be fast-absorbed carbohydrates or high fibre foods (or high-fat foods).

Fast absorbed carbohydrates cannot give a sustained energy release; instead there is an instant rush of energy, which is rapidly used up and cannot last the entire duration of the workout. High fibre foods such as vegetables and salads must be avoided before a workout as they would take too long to digest. High-fat foods are also very heavy to digest and must never be consumed before a workout for the same reason.

Choosing Appropriate Pre-Workout Protein

The sole purpose of the pre-workout protein is to prevent muscle breakdown for amino acids. During an intense workout, amino acids such as the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are rapidly used for energy. Supplying a good quality pre-workout protein of high biological value and rich in BCAAs will reduce breakdown of muscle protein for obtaining the same amino acids.

The pre-workout protein also has to be slow-absorbed to prevent excessive muscle breakdown (anti-catabolic) by supplying a slow and steady release of amino acids throughout the workout.

Timing of the Pre-Workout Meal

The timing of the pre-workout meal should roughly be about 30-45 minutes prior to exercise (max 1 hour). This allows the body enough time to digest and begin nutrient absorption. Consuming a large amount of food immediately before working out can impair performance because blood is more concentrated in stomach for digestion rather than in muscles for performance. In other words, the meal or snack should be consumed with enough time to digest it, should leave the athlete feeling satiated, and should be low in fat and fiber so as not to cause an upset stomach. Obviously, the closer you get to your workout time, the smaller the meal should be.

How Much Protein and Carbs Should You Eat Before Workout?

For resistance exercise, you’ll need to eat a mix of approximately 0.3-0.5 g of carbs per kilogram of your target body weight and 0.3-0.5 g of protein per kilogram of your target body weight, as this will help you get plenty of energy from the carbs to perform each set you do and the extra protein will help keep muscle breakdown to a minimum while you exercise.

Read our next post to find some great suggestions for healthy pre-workout meals or snacks.

Summing Up (Conclusion)

In conclusion, pre-workout nutrition is important as it gives your body the fuel it needs to get through your regime without having to turn to other sources of energy. This ensures that you are maximizing your muscle gain. The best option is a combination of low glycemic (slowly absorbed) carbs and good-quality slow-absorbed protein and of course, plenty of water before, during, and after exercise. About 0.3-0.5 g/kg (0.14-0.23 g/lb) of both carbs and protein 30-45 minutes before workout would be a good starting place.

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