The Benefits Of Eating Pre-Workout Foods
So, let’s start by talking about why you should be eating pre-workout, i.e. before a workout. Many people carry out what’s called fasted cardio, in an attempt to burn and lose body fat, but unless you’re carrying out this cardio from 6am – 7am, you need to fuel your body before each and every workout.
Ultimately, you should picture your body like a car – you can’t expect to drive 150 miles with no petrol in the tank, can you? If you’re looking to perform and train at your best, you need to make sure your body has enough fuel to do so. If you fail to provide yourself with the energy and nutrients required during exercise, the chances are you won’t see results as quickly as you should. Plus, over a long period of time, the likelihood of becoming ill or injured will be increased.
1. Gives You More Energy
Our bodies use carbohydrates and glycogen as the first source of fuel. This is because carbohydrates and stored glycogen can be converted into ATP (adenoise triphosphate, i.e. energy) faster than protein and fat. Therefore, filling up your glycogen stores pre-workout will mean you’ll have more energy to perform at your best.
2. Prevent Muscle Catabolism
When we exercise, glycogen stores are quickly used up and depleted, so the body looks for new sources of energy – our muscles. By breaking down hard-earned muscle, the body can utilise amino acids for energy. This is bad, as it puts our bodies into a catabolic state, which can prevent muscle growth and recovery.
3. Increase Muscle Anabolism
Eating the right foods pre-workout means you won’t only top up your glycogen stores, but by eating a good source of protein, you’ll also be able to promote muscle-protein synthesis and create an anabolic environment in the body.
What and When to Eat Pre-Workout
In every meal, you need to consider the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats. You also need to consider the ratio in which you are eating them.
This ultimately depends on your goal and the time of your pre-workout meal. Simple carbohydrates are great for 30 minutes to an hour before a workout, as they provide the body with fast-acting glucose as fuel. However, complex carbohydrates also play a role within energy metabolism. By consuming low GI carbohydrates around 2-3 hours before a workout, you can give your body a slow-releasing source of energy. This means you’ll be able to work out for longer and be less likely to have a dip in your blood sugar levels in the middle of your workout.
30 Minutes to an Hour Pre-Workout:
Consume light meals and foods which contain simple carbohydrates and some protein.
2-3 Hours Pre-Workout:
Consume a meal around 400- 500 calories containing a good source of protein (around 20g) and complex low GI carbohydrates (20-30g).
Bananas are a great source of natural sugars, simple carbohydrates, and potassium. In the body, potassium is only stored for a limited amount of time, so try consuming a banana around 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. Eating a banana pre-workout is the perfect way to boost your glycogen stores and increase blood sugar levels.
2. Chicken, Rice & Vegetables
The stereotypical healthy meal: chicken, rice, and vegetables. This is actually a classic pre-workout meal. By combining a good source of lean protein and complex carbohydrates, this meal can provide amino acids to promote anabolism (muscle growth) and a slow-releasing source of energy. Consume a meal like this around 2-3 hours before a workout.
3. Greek Yogurt and Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is high in sugar and high in calories. When it comes to dieting, dried fruit is generally avoided, however, this food is great to be consumed in measured amounts pre-workout to give a quick source of simple sugar. Consuming dried fruit with Greek yogurt can also provide the body with a source of protein to help optimise your workout. Consume a meal like this 1-1.5 hours before a workout.
4. Porridge and Oatmeal
Porridge and oatmeal make the ultimate pre-workout breakfast. This pre-workout food contains complex carbohydrates and is also a great source of the soluble fibre, beta-glucan. By consuming oats around 2 hours before a workout, you’ll be able to satisfy your hunger throughout your workouts whilst getting a great source of slow-releasing energy. Try adding a scoop of protein powder to your porridge. That way you’ll also get a great source of protein and amino acids.
5. Fruit Smoothies
Many people think fruit smoothies are great tasting and super-healthy. Whilst smoothies do provide a series of micronutrients that are beneficial for health and well-being, they’re also full of sugars, including fructose. This means that smoothies are often high in calories and what are often mistaken as drinks are actually meal replacements. However, consuming a fruit smoothie pre-workout is a great pre-workout meal option that can provide you with a good source of fast-acting glucose
6. Wholegrain Bread, Sweet Potato and Brown Rice
Wholegrain Bread, sweet potato, and brown rice are great sources of complex carbohydrates that should be consumed around 2-3 hours pre-workout. Combining these foods with a good source of protein means you’ll get a good source of slow-releasing energy to fuel you throughout a whole workout. Carbohydrates should be consumed by all those physically active but in particular those who carry out regular endurance activities such as cycling and running.
7. Apple Wedges and Peanut Butter
Enjoying sliced apple wedges with a small spread of peanut butter is tasty before a workout food. It’s perfect for consuming around 30 minutes before a workout.
Omelettes made using whole eggs and egg whites are a great source of muscle-building protein and amino acids. Omelettes should be consumed 2-3 hours before a workout to avoid muscle catabolism and promote muscle growth.
9. Homemade Protein Bars
Homemade protein bars are super easy to make and perfect for a quick on the go pre-workout food. What’s more, you can control the content making bars that are high in carbohydrates and protein or low in carbohydrates and high in protein. Check out our favourite tasty high-protein recipes.
10. Protein Shakes
Last but not least, protein shakes. If you’re on the go and in a hurry or none of the above appeal to you, a quick protein shake can solve your pre-workout problems. By consuming a shake with a good source of fast-releasing protein, such as whey protein, with simple carbohydrates like maltodextrin powder, you can get all the pre-workout nutrients you need in a matter of minutes.
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