Face it: What you eat pre-workout plays a large role in your performance and results. Supplements are great, but will never take the place of eating nutritous foods. But, what are the best foods to eat before a workout?
Nutrition trumps everything when it comes to performance and recovery time.
A good workout means calling on your body to stress muscles to go the distance, and it can’t do it without eating the best foods beforehand.
When your diet is at peak levels your capacity to perform will increase as well as your motivation.
Getting the most out of any training session requires certain foods to prepare your body. About 3-4 hours before your workout you need something to:
- Support and maintain energy
- Promote your highest level of performance
- Safeguard muscle tissue
- Accelerate muscle recovery and time
Best Pre-Workout Food Groups
These are 3 food groups to eat from a few hours before training:
Proteins start out as amino acids are important to everyone for maintaining healthy muscle but especially important to people who train and exercise regularly.
You need protein to increase muscle mass. Eating protein is where you get amino acids which are important to increase muscle growth. There are 9 essential amino acids and 3 of them are branched-chain amino acids or BCCAs. They are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Of course, anyone around going to a gym is probably familiar with the popular supplements containing BCCAs. You can purchase the powder form protein supplements and mix them in your favorite protein shaker bottle. However, you’ll do just as well with eating any protein source a few hours before starting.
Most of us are more than familiar with delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. That’s when you feel the effects of the muscle damaged as a result of working out. DOMS happens different and at different times for different people. But, generally speaking, the soreness will set in somewhere between 12 and 72 hours after a training session.
Muscle growth from workouts results from first breaking down the tissues with tiny fiber tears which are part of the delayed onset muscle soreness. The branched-chain amino acids help to repair the tears and shorten recovery time and reduce fatigue during your training. Faster recovery means you will stay motivated to exercise.
Carbs Before a Workout
Carbs are an important group of foods to get the most from your work. Some people seem to think of sweets when they think of carbs, and they are right. But wrong when it comes to endurance and creating the right balance of food for fitness of any type.
Carbs Provide Energy
For some time I thought I needed to pre-load carbs in enormous amounts before hitting the gym. I think that came from doing that before a long run. But the truth is, for most workouts of an hour or so, you just need some carbs in your system. They are important to fuel your energy.
Carbs Preserve Muscles
You get glucose from carbohydrate-rich foods that is stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver. Even though your body also depends on protein and fat for energy, it tends to go for the stored carbs first. When you eat healthy carbs before an exercise session your body responds by providing plenty of energy along with helping muscle growth. Carbohydrates also prevent your body from attempting to break down muscles for energy. The catch is to eat healthy complex carbs, and no sugary drinks or anything else for the best results.
Should I Eat Fats Before a Workout?
Fats are an important part of any diet, and they can be a source of energy. However, you only need a small amount of fat pre-workout.
When it comes to energy sources, glycogen from carbs are needed for HIIT exercises because they are fast and furious.
For most moderate intensity level workouts, your body likes to call on fat for energy.
Healthy eating means eating the right balance of fats, protein, and carbs will ensure slow digestion and keep your peak energy performance.
You definitely don’t want to eat a lot of fats because they don’t digest fast and can cause energy to be diverted to your stomach for digestion.
The best fats to eat are:
- Fatty fish
- Peanut butter
Top 5 Foods Before a Workout
1. Chicken, Brown Rice and Leafy Greens
This dish will fully nourish your body if taken 3-hours before you hit the gym, running track or aerobics class. A meal like this will provide you with low-fat protein from the lean chicken to promote muscle anabolism as well as a slow release of energy from leafy greens and the brown rice.
2. Wholegrain Bread
Adding whole-grain bread to your pre-workout diet is highly recommended if you engage in endurance training activities like running, cycling or swimming. When consumed 2-3 hours pre-workout, wholegrain bread will help your body to increase glycogen reserves and provide a slow release of energy to fuel you throughout the exercise session.
Eggs are great pre-workout foods for bodybuilders. Whether you like them fried, scrambled or boiled, they are rich in protein. As a result, eggs supply the body with branched-chain amino acids, which prevent muscle breakdown in case glycogen reserves run out as you exercise. What’s more, you can control the fat and cholesterol content by removing the egg yolk. Eggs should be consumed 2-3 hours before your workouts to ensure ample digestion time.
4. Greek Yogurt and Dried Fruit
Dried fruits and yogurt can be consumed 1-1.5 hours before exercise to provide the body with a quick source of simple sugars and protein. For the best results, opt for low-fat, Greek yogurt, which tends to have the highest protein content.
Sometimes it can be hard to find time for whooping up a meal or even wholesome snack before heading out to the gym or running trail. In such cases, a quick dose of carbohydrates is your best bet to invigorate the body before the workout. Apples are healthy energizing foods that will boost your glucose levels when consumed even 30-40 minutes before a workout.
Drinking Water Before You Workout
Drinking water before you start is vital to your results. Remember to drink enough water before your workouts to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and loss of coordination, which may increase the risk of injuries during exercise. Try drinking 16-24 ounces of water an hour before workouts and at least 7-10-ounces every 20-30 minutes of exercise.
Before exercising, it is important to fuel your body for the work that it is about to do. Eating too little or not at all before a workout will likely lead to quick fatigue and weakness due to low blood glucose.
However, consuming too much food before exercise may cause stomach discomfort, nausea or cramping. The foods you choose to consume is just as important as eating pre-workout. And do not underestimate the timing of meals as well can affect energy levels during exercise.
Pre-Workout Nutrition Facts
A good pre-workout meal plan should incorporate protein-rich foods with carbohydrates.
Of course, carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy, and these macronutrients can be further broken down into two groups:
- Complex carbs
- Simple sugars.
The type of carbs to eat before an exercise session largely depends on the timing of a meal.
★ Generally, food sources with simple sugars digest quickly and provide the body with fast-acting glucose. For this reason, they make good snacks, which you can eat 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.
★ On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are best eaten at least 3 hours before workouts since they take longer to digest. On the plus side, such carbohydrates will give the body a slow release of energy, allowing you to exercise for longer without experiencing total fatigue in the middle of your workout.
Proteins consumed before a workout help to prevent muscle cannibalism during the exercise session.
Although high in calories, fats should be avoided before workouts since they metabolize slowly.
In fact, they can leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.