A good workout is an essential part of a healthy living routine. And knowing what to eat and what not to eat is as important as the workout itself. A healthy diet and a proper training schedule not only help your body do better but also aids in faster recovery. We are here to guide you through the details of proper pre-workout nutrition, meals, and supplements.
Remember, post-workout nutrition is just as important as pre-workout nutrition. You do not want to work out and eat snacks that cancel out the entire effect. In addition, make sure you have the appropriate sports medicine with you at all your training sessions.
What Is The Perfect Time For A Workout In Relation To Meals?
It is preferred to have a small pre-workout snack half an hour before working out in the morning to give your body the perfect kick-start.
After Heavy Meal
You should not work out immediately after eating a heavy main course meal, as this can cause vomiting and other G.I. disturbances. It takes around 2 to 3 hours for the food to get digested, so start working out after this time.
In Between Meals
If you have not consumed a meal in a while, take a small snack and then start the workout after an hour or so.
What Key Nutrients Should You Be Consuming Before A Workout?
It’s essential to consume the correct nutrients to achieve the desired results. Any athletic task cannot be executed if the diet is not nutritious.
Your diet should have abundant proteins to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and proliferation. Proteins are not only the building blocks of muscles, but they also help repair tissue damage.
The following are great examples of healthy foods that are rich in protein: (1)
- low-fat milk
This nutrient group is often misunderstood. People often think that taking too much sugar can lead to diabetes, which is not true. Carbs are the first source of energy that your body tries to find when in need of energy, so before any exercise, make sure your blood sugar level is not low, or else you might blackout during your workout. (2)
Complex carbohydrates should be preferred because they provide energy more consistently over a more extended period.
On the contrary, simple carbohydrates do not have any nutritional value. Examples of simple carbs are chocolate bars and cakes. (3)
Foods that contain complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index score than those with simple carbohydrates. Foods with a low index are unlikely to cause blood glucose levels to rise and cause the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Below are some examples of healthy foods that contain complex carbs:
- Vegetables such as broccoli and sweet potatoes.
- Whole-grain pasta.
- Beans and lentils.
- Rice, predominantly brown rice.
- Whole-wheat toast.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of water. Consider keeping yourself hydrated as rule number 1 before starting any workout. Always carry a water bottle with you wherever you go and stay hydrated.
Ideal Foods To Eat Before A Workout
Here are the food items that are considered best to eat before a workout:
You can take oatmeal alone or combine it with fruits. Eating oatmeal is very beneficial before a morning workout session. The entire night the stomach remains empty, and your body needs a stable food supply to start the day well. Oatmeal can provide tons of energy, and it helps improve performance.
Brown Rice With Meat
Brown rice with chicken is the preferred diet for those who don’t work out in the morning. These are easy-to-digest carbs that don’t cause an upset stomach. It can be consumed easily in the afternoon.
Protein shakes have been around the block for a long time. They provide energy and help increase muscle mass. But they can cause potential side effects as well. Therefore, one must consult a registered dietitian before starting any sports drink if you have any kind of allergies. You can also check lactose free protein powders recommend by us.
Bananas are loaded with nutrients that provide energy to the body. They are rich in carbs. One banana is enough to fuel your body for a workout if consumed 45 minutes before hitting the gym. It also has the vital mineral potassium in it in large amounts.
Sandwich With Peanut Butter Or Honey Bagel
A peanut butter sandwich or bagel with honey can be a great morning snack. Although this might seem heavy or caloric, this is precisely what your body requires after a good night's rest. And don’t forget to indulge in a whole-wheat toast.
A pre-workout snack bar like a granola bar ensures a constant energy supply while working out. However, before purchasing any granola bar, go through the ingredients thoroughly and ensure that they have the correct nutrients.
What Foods Should You Avoid?
Make sure you consume very low quantities of unsaturated fats. Fats take a long time to digest and can therefore upset the stomach. Too much fat can also make you feel sluggish.
For some people, lots of fiber or protein doesn’t mix with exercise. Every person's body is slightly different, so pay attention to what works for you and follow that religiously.
Examples of Pre-Workout Meals
Each workout is different; some exercises require more energy, like lifting weights, while some can be performed on low energy. But always remember to keep carbs and proteins as the primary nutrients of your pre-workout meal. Even if you consume fat, do not take it within a few hours of your work-out time.
Knowing what to eat before lifting weights is key. You can't increase your muscle mass by just eating junk food. Let’s look at some examples of a pre-workout meal:
If You Workout After 2 to 3 Hours
- You can take a sandwich made of whole-wheat toast, protein, and a vegetable or fruit salad.
- An omelet and whole-grain bread with a healthy spread or jam and a bowl full of fruit.
- A source of lean protein of your choice and brown rice and vegetables.
If You Workout Within 2 Hours
- You can have a protein bowl made of any fruit and milk, preferably bananas, a sports drink, or even half a banana.
- A simple whole-grain cereal and milk can be perfect as well.
- A bowl of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds.
If You Workout Within 1 Hour Or Less
- You can eat Greek yogurt and fruit salad.
- A good nutrient bar loaded with essential amino acids and key ingredients.
- A slice of any fresh fruit might work too.
What Supplements To Take Before A Workout?
Supplements, as the name suggests, supplement the main diet of the consumer. They improve performance, increase muscle strength, build muscle and reduce fatigue.
However, several factors should be considered before consuming any supplements. So, always consult your physician first. (4)
Caffeine improves performance, reduces sluggishness, and stimulates the burning of fat.
Caffeine intake is possible by drinking coffee, tea, or sports drinks. It can also be consumed as a pre-workout supplement or pills.
Caffeine is known to show its effects around an hour after consumption. Studies show that it is effective when taken 15 minutes or 1 hour before any athletic performance task.
If you are caffeine sensitive, you can always look for pre workouts which doesn't have any caffeine.
It is usually consumed by muscle trainers and is an effective supplement. It helps build muscles, increases muscle protein synthesis, and decreases fatigue.
It can be taken before and after a workout, but the preferred and more effective timing is after a workout.
Recommended Dose: 2–5 gms creatine per day.
You can take creatine in its pure form or can take pre workout supplements which have creatine.
BCAAs [Branched Chain Amino Acids]
Branched-Chain Amino Acids include leucine, valine, and isoleucine. They come under essential amino acids that are very important for the body. Studies suggest consuming BCAAs before workouts. This helps improve muscle recovery and increases the synthesis of muscle proteins. (5)
Recommended Dose: 5 grams or more, at least an hour before exercise, is effective. BCAAs can also be consumed as intra workout.
All-In-One Pre-Workout Supplements
Many people consume all of these supplements or an all-in-one supplement. Combining all these supplements results in a proper daily dose. It also creates a synergic effect and improves performance tremendously.
The dosage depends on the brand and product, but it should be consumed half an hour to 45 minutes before any workout.
You can read more on pre workout supplements for beginners.
Eating before a workout is as essential as the workout itself. But not just eating, eating the right foods.
Make sure you have enough fluids in your diet, drink water, and stay hydrated. Supplements are essential too, but get them prescribed by a physician or a registered dietitian.
Plan out your training schedule appropriately and follow it regularly.
William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist
William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other.