A huge part of fitness is making sure your diet matches your goals. That’s because your body needs the right foods and nutrients to fuel up for working out and recovering.
In fact, consuming the right nutrients will help optimize your body’s performance during exercise, allowing you to train harder and longer. Therefore, pre-workout meals and supplements are extremely important for reaching your fitness goals.
What you consume and when you consume your meal will hugely impact your workout. Let's look at how you can maximize your meals for your workouts!
Foods to Eat Before Working Out
Each food group has different effects on your body’s performance and recovery. Depending on your workout type and goals, your pre-workout meal would consist of different macronutrients at varying ratios.
Glucose is the main fuel that your body runs on and carbs are the main source of glucose for your body. When you consume carbs, your body converts them into glucose for energy. If too much glucose is converted, the glucose is further processed and stored as glycogen (mainly in your liver and muscle cells).
For short but high-intensity workouts, your glycogen stores are what your muscles use for fuel. However, these stores of glycogen can be depleted during a workout. When this happens, your body no longer has enough glycogen to stay energized, and your performance will suffer.
Therefore, if you want to work out for an extended period of time, it's important to add carbs to your pre-workout meal. Past studies have found that consuming carbs will increase your body’s glycogen stores and utilization of glycogen, as well as boost carb oxidation during workouts.
For example, if an athlete is planning to run a marathon, it would be a good idea for them to carb load beforehand. This would mean consuming a high-carb diet for one to seven days before the run, so as to maximize the body’s glycogen stores.
Protein is another important nutrient to consume before a workout. In fact, there are many studies that have shown the efficacy and importance of protein for athletes. However, protein does not directly impact your immediate workout performance. Instead, protein is important for building your muscles for future workouts.
This is because the main benefit of protein is that it helps in building muscles and aiding recovery. Specifically, studies have found that eating protein before a workout helps in increasing your body’s muscle protein synthesis. Post-workout, protein also helps to boost your muscle recovery. Overall, protein consumption also leads to increased strength and performance.
The word “fat” has many negative connotations, however, it’s important to remember that fats are still an important part of your diet. In fact, many processes within your body depend on fat, such as stockpiling fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E and K. Therefore, fat is not a nutrient to avoid.
Fat is a complex molecule and, in comparison to carbs, requires more time to digest and utilize. Therefore, most studies focus on how a long-term high-fat diet would impact one’s workout performance, rather than the immediate effects of fat on your next workout.
Overall, studies have shown that diets high in fat do contribute to increasing one’s workout endurance. Specifically, one study looked at runners who completed a four-week diet that consisted of up to 40% fat. This high-fat diet had a positive correlation with increased endurance for runners without any adverse effects on the body.
A Quick Summary on Nutrients
The nutrients that you should consume will vary depending on your workout type and overall fitness goals. If you are engaging in a short but high-intensity exercise, you will want to consume carbs to maximize your glycogen stores. On the other hand, if you are readying for a longer but less intensive exercise, fats should be your go-to nutrient. Lastly, if your primary goal is to build muscle, protein will be extremely important to consume in your pre-workout meal.
When Should You Consume Your Pre-Workout Meal?
It’s important to time your pre-workout meal just right.
You don’t want to eat too close to your workout time as it is likely your food will still be digesting and taking up space in your stomach, making you uncomfortable and having a negative effect on your performance.
However, you also don’t want to eat too early such that by the time you start working out, you’re running on empty. There’s a careful balance to when you should eat, and getting it right is important for your workout performance.
If you’re looking for optimal body performance and improvement, we recommend eating a pre-workout meal of carbs, fats, and protein about two to three hours before a workout.
If you don’t have two to three hours to spare, aim to eat simpler and smaller meals. As fat can be hard to digest, you may want to skip out on it if you don’t have the time. Instead, focus on a meal with carbs and protein.
Examples of Pre-Workout Meals
We have provided some examples of pre-workout meals below that combine the necessary nutrients based on how long you have before your next workout.
Eating Two to Three Hours Before Your Next Workout
If you are eating two to three hours beforehand, you can afford to eat a complex meal with a good mix of carbs, fats and protein. Suggested pre-workout meals include:
- A whole-grain bread sandwich with lean protein and a side salad
- Whole-grain toast with smashed avocado, an egg omelet, and a cup of fruit
- Lean protein with brown rice and roasted vegetables
Eating One to Two Hours Before Your Next Workout
If you are eating one to two hours beforehand, you’ll want to eat something simpler and consisting mostly of proteins and carbs. Therefore, suggested meals include:
- A smoothie made from milk, protein powder, banana, and berries
- Whole-grain cereal with milk
- Oatmeal topped with banana and nuts
- Whole-grain bread with natural almond butter and fruit preserves
Eating Less than an Hour Before Your Next Workout
If you have less than an hour before your workout, you’ll want to eat the simplest meal of protein and carbs available. This should also be a small meal so that your stomach isn’t too full during exercise. Great options include:
- A cup of Greek yogurt and fruit
- A protein bar
- A serving of fruit, such as an apple, banana, or orange
Of course, it is important to that everyone has different digestive systems and what works as a pre-workout meal for you might not for others. Always take note of how your body feels and tailor your eating habits to that.
In addition to your diet and pre-workout meal, you may also want to use pre-workout supplements to fuel up before a workout. These supplements are designed to provide your body with an energy boost before exercise to help you stay at a higher intensity for longer.
Over time, the ingredients within pre-workouts have become more complex to cater to people with diverse training needs.
Here are just a few of the main ingredients you’ll see in your pre-workout supplements.
Caffeine is a common pre-workout supplement as it can help boost performance, strength, power, and fat burning, while also preventing body fatigue. If you intend to incorporate caffeine into your workout routine, it would be best to take it 15-60 minutes beforehand.
Creatine is relied on by athletes to boost muscle growth, strength and performance. It has been found to increase muscle mass, muscle fiber size, muscle strength, and power, all while preventing muscle fatigue. Therefore, taking a pre-workout supplement packed with creatine is ideal for those who are looking to build size and mass.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched-chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs, are three essential amino acids (valine, leucine and isoleucine) our bodies need but can't naturally produce. The only way to get your BCAAs is by consuming protein-rich food and supplements.
BCAAs are helpful in increasing muscle protein synthesis whilst simultaneously preventing muscle damage. BCAAs are helpful both pre- and post-workout. Pre-workout, they are able to reduce the amount of muscle damage that occurs when lifting weight. Post-workout, BCAAs help speed up the recovery process.
Giving your body the right nutrients is important. Not only will these nutrients affect your performance at your next workout, but they will keep you on track to meet your long term fitness goals.
This starts with knowing what to eat in your pre-workout meal and when to eat it. For that extra energy boost and workout benefit, add pre-workout supplements to your training regiment. Check out our HYDE pre-workout range to see which pre-workouts align with your training goals.