Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always looking for a way to improve their performance and achieve their goals. Maybe you are just now starting in the gym, or maybe you are a veteran to the gym and go every day, have you often wondered what exactly you should eat before a workout? What foods should you avoid, and when is the best time to eat.
If you get the proper good nutrition it can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout. Optimal nutrient intake before exercise will not only help you maximize your performance but will also help minimize muscle damage and injuries.
Knowing What to Eat
The first part of the healthy eating battle is knowing what to eat. Make sure you are fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you more energy and strength you need to perform better. Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout, However, the ratio in which you need to consume them will vary based on the individual and the type of exercise you plan on doing. Here is a list of macronutrients and the role each of them can play:
Your muscles need the glucose that is found in carbs to use as energy and fuel. Glycogen is the way your body processes and stores glucose, mainly in the liver and muscles in your body. For short and high-intensity workouts your glycogen storage is the main source of energy for your muscles. But with longer exercises, the carbs can be used differently depending on the intensity, the type of training, and your overall diet.
The level of glycogen storage is limited in your body and once it has been depleted your output and intensity in the workout will diminish. If you are looking to maximize glycogen levels you can try what is called carb loading, which involves consuming a high-carb diet for 1-7 days.
Many studies that have been done document the potential of pre-workout protein and the consumption to improve your performance. Eating protein alone or with carbs prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis. One study also showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 grams of whey protein. Other benefits of eating protein before exercise can include
- better muscle growth or anabolic response
- improved muscle recovery
- increased strength and lean body mass
- increased muscle performance
If you need a source of fuel for a longer and moderate to low-intensity workout, you need fat. Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake and athletic performance. Most of these show high-fat diets over a long period of time and not just before exercising though. One study even showed how a four-week diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance running times in healthy trained runners.
In summary, carbs can help maximize glycogen stored for high-intensity exercise while fat helps fuel the body for longer and less intense workouts. Then protein improves muscle protein synthesis and aids in muscle recovery. This is why it is important to have a well-balanced diet and eat healthily.
Timing of Your Pre-Workout Meal
When you are looking at pre-workout nutrition people often overlook the timing. This is just as important as what you eat. To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein, and fat 2-3 hours before you hit the gym or work out.
We know that is not always obtainable or easy to do and if that is your case, just keep in mind the closer the workout the smaller meal you should consume. If you are eating 45-60 minutes before your workout choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein. This should also cut down on stomach discomfort during your exercise routine.
Pre-Workout Meal Examples
Your workout will determine exactly what kind of foods you need to eat and how much. A good rule to follow is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to your workout and eat them at least 2 hours before.
Some examples of a balanced pre-workout meal if you have at least 2 hours can include:
- sandwich on whole-grain bread with a lean protein
- egg omelet and whole-grain toast
- lean protein, brown rice, and vegetables
Some examples of a balanced meal within 2 hours of workout include:
- protein smoothie with milk, protein powder, and fruits
- whole-grain cereal and milk
- a cup of oatmeal topped with bananas and almonds
Some examples if your workout starts within an hour or less:
- greek yogurt and fruit
- nutrition bar with protein
- piece of fruit
Some more tips to keep in mind is that you only need 1 per workout meal. You should not eat one at every time frame. For best results experiment with what you eat and at what time you are eating it, along with different nutrient compositions. A combination of carbs and protein is recommended for pre-workout meals. Fat can also be consumed if you are eating it at least 2 hours before you are exercising.
When it comes to sports and exercising supplements are common, These products may enhance performance, improve strength, increase lean body mass, reduce fatigue and help you lose weight. Some of the best pre-workout supplements are creatine, caffeine, BCAAs, Beta-alanine, and some multi-ingredient supplements. When used correctly these can all help you achieve optimal benefits.
Your body needs water to function. Good hydration can even enhance your performance. It is recommended to consume both water and sodium before exercise, drinking 16-20 ounces of water at least 4 hours before exercise and at least 8-12 ounces of water 10-15 before exercise.
To maximize your performance and recovery it is important to fuel your body with the right nutrients that it needs, At the end of the day a simple pre-workout meal with good water intake and good nutrition practices can go a long way in helping with this.
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