Before a Workout- What to Eat and When
You work out really hard, driven by various reasons that keep you motivated to exercise. It may be the desire to attain that amazing beach body for the summers, the wish to get rid of those love handles or the passion for building the coveted 6-pack abdomen. It could even be training to achieve a specific body shape or a level of fitness. Whatever is the motivation behind your pursuit, the most important part of maintaining fitness is the diet. What you consume is much more important than your exercise regimen.
Why Is It Important to Eat Before a Workout?
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is very beneficial to have a good, balanced meal before your workout session. A pre-workout meal helps you get the desired energy required for working out effectively and also repairs your muscles to fuel muscle growth. Working out on an empty stomach makes you extremely lethargic during the day. This can also cause slow repair of muscle fibres, resulting in increased recovery times and potential injuries.
What is an Ideal Pre-workout Diet?
This is logically the next question that you would have. It makes sense that a pre-workout meal should be beneficial to you. Now, the ideal pre-workout diet would depend mainly on your goal of working out, the intensity of your workout and your current body type.
The following should be taken a couple of hours before your workout for best results, depending on the form of workout that you are planning to do:
Carbs help in providing the energy required for workouts, especially for workouts involving high-intensity exercises. The body burns glycogen derived from carbohydrates only for extremely intense activities during the day. This makes it ideal to consume carbohydrates before an intense workout session.
Proteins are the nutrients that act as building blocks for the body. Every exercise involves the tearing of muscle tissues in the body. The synthesis of proteins creates new muscle tissues that grow in place of the old ones. This helps in enhancing the muscles and increasing the muscle mass of the body. As the basic objective of every workout should be stronger muscles, proteins are essential to any pre-workout diet plan.
Believe it or not, fats are beneficial in certain cases. Especially when you are doing low-intensity exercises, fats are the preferred sources of energy for the body. Hence, it would be beneficial to consume fats when you are doing low-intensity workouts.
Although water is not a nutrient, numerous studies have linked ingestion of water to increased performance during workouts. It is recommended that you drink at least 0.5 litres of water 4 hours before the workout and 0.3 litres of water 15 minutes before the workout.
An ideal pre-workout diet for weight loss should include a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates with a punch of lean proteins. It can be a bit difficult to maintain the right balance between carbs and proteins in this case. You should carefully select what carbs to eat before a workout and what not. An apple with peanut butter or half a cup of oatmeal with blueberries or raisins would be ideal for a workout aimed at weight loss. On the contrary, a rich diet of proteins and carbs answers what to eat before a workout to gain weight.
A good pre-workout snack for bodybuilding should consist of lean proteins with light and easy-to-break-down carbs. This is because anyone who is aiming to increase their muscle mass with their workout should focus on getting energy from carb sources that feel light on the stomach teamed with proteins that help in the creation of new muscle tissues. Oatmeal with low-fat turkey or egg whites would be a great pre-workout meal for a person who is aiming at doing bodybuilding. Equal parts of lean proteins with carbs ideally answers what to eat before weight lifting workout.
How to Eat Balanced Pre-workout Meals?
The timing of your pre-workout meal is extremely crucial to have an effective fitness plan. A balanced meal before a workout consists of a mix of proteins and carbohydrates, most of the time. The perfect mix also depends upon the timing of the meal.
1. Diet Before 3 Hours of Workout Start Time
- This early before the workout, it is advisable to eat a protein- and carbohydrate-rich diet with some amount of fat in it.
- An ideal diet would be boiled chicken and brown rice with roasted vegetables.
2. Diet Before 2 Hours of Workout Start Time
- During this period, an ideal balanced diet would be a mix of protein-rich foods with simple carbohydrates.
- A good meal at this point would be a protein smoothie that consists of milk, whey powder, bananas and berries.
3. Diet Before 1 Hour of Workout Start Time
- It is best to have simple carbs that can provide a boost of energy to the body an hour before working out.
- Fruits like bananas or apples are recommended as a meal at this stage.
- Apart from this, you can always consult a professional dietician on what to eat 30 minutes before a workout for the best results.
Best Pre-workout Foods
There are a variety of food items that are rich in the nutrients mentioned above.
Here are 10 best food items that you can consider eating for best results before an intense workout session:
Full of carbohydrates and potassium, this is a favourite snack among fitness freaks and amateur gym-goers alike. The fruit is very filling as well as extremely light on the stomach. Moreover, it is a powerhouse of energy.
One major reason why oats are a must-have food item in every pre-workout meal list is amazing.
Oats have high fibre content, which makes the synthesis of carbohydrates slower. This results in higher bouts of energy per meal, allowing for a longer and more strenuous workout. Oats are also good as they are a source for Vitamin B.
3. Greek Yoghurt with Fresh Fruits
This is one of the best combos that could ever be invented. Greek yoghurt is an extremely low-fat, low-carb, protein-rich food item and fresh fruits are the best sources of simple carbohydrates like fructose that break down into pure energy easily. This makes the snack yummy to taste as well as healthy for a pre-workout meal.
4. Dry Fruits
Dry fruits like dried raisins, berries etc. are good sources of easily digestible carbohydrates. They also contain essential vitamins, making them a favourite choice of a snack before a hardcore workout.
5. Boiled Chicken, Broccoli and Sweet Potato
Simply put, this meal contains lots of protein, vitamins and good carbohydrates. This combo helps in making you build your muscle mass better and in training harder. There is no wonder why athletes prefer this meal before their extremely intense workout sessions.
6. Banana and Peanut Butter Smoothie
A good smoothie consisting of milk, banana, peanut butter, oats and flaxseeds has it all. Banana and oats are a rich supply of carbs, milk and peanut butter are a rich source of protein as well as fats. Therefore, a good pre-workout breakfast smoothie acts as a complete meal before a taxing workout.
7. Apples, Almond Butter and Raisins
Dried fruits like raisins act as rich sources of simple carbohydrates, which can be easily broken down. Add to that the fibre in apples, and it makes the meal power-packed. Moreover, the monounsaturated fats in almond butter make the meal the perfect hunger-buster. They are a good source of proteins too.
8. Homemade Fruit Juice
Instead of going for a packaged sports drink with added sugars and preservatives, it is always better to fix up a fruit juice in your kitchen. A mix of orange juice, water, sea salt and honey makes sure you have a yummy and carbohydrate-rich pre-workout meal. This pre-workout fruit juice also does the job of maintaining the electrolyte balance in your body before a strenuous workout.
9. Oatmeal with Raisins
This is a classic pre-workout meal which can be fixed up in a matter of minutes. Add oats and raisins, to provide a rich source of good carbohydrates and proteins. This meal ensures that you can get the essential nutrients in the least possible time, without sacrificing on the taste.
10. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
The classic PB&J sandwich is a power-packed source of carbs.This makes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich an ideal and yummy pre-workout snack for some days in your workout calendar.
Below, we answer some questions you may have about pre-workout meals.
1. Which Foods Must I Avoid Before a Workout?
Your stomach does not get a lot of blood during workout sessions. Hence, you should avoid the following:
- Foods that are difficult to digest, highly fibrous vegetables like beans, cauliflower, etc.
- Bad carbs and fatty fried foods.
- Spicy meals.
- Complex sugars like carbonated drinks and desserts.
2. What are the Consequences of Working Out on an Empty Stomach?
Exercising without proper nutrients causes your body to use up stored fats and carbs for the workout. This causes depletion of proteins, further causing a loss in muscle mass and difficulty in recovering from post-workout pains. Eating before a gym workout in the morning or evening is essential for good health and fitness.
3. What Should I Drink for Energy Before a Workout?
Homemade fruit juice with sea salt (electrolytes) ensures that you have enough carbs to provide energy for the workout as well as keep you well hydrated.
4. What Supplements Can I Have Before Going for a Workout?
The following supplements are beneficial if you have them before a workout:
- Beta Alanine and
These supplements have proteins or essential amino acids that can help the muscles with more effective protein synthesis.
5. Which Foods are Good for a Weight Loss Workout?
Complex carbohydrates with lean proteins are the way to go for a weight loss workout. Bananas with almond butter or apples with peanut butter work the best for weight loss pre-workout meals. A balanced meal of carbs and proteins is what women should eat before a workout. Ideal meals include Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit smoothies.
You work out to achieve a body that is fit, sound and healthy. Having essential nutrients before difficult exercises ensures that your body is cut out for performing them and has an adequate amount of energy. Skipping a pre-workout meal will not allow you to recover fast enough and get back to training again. Moreover, it depletes energy that you would require to function throughout the day. Hence, a balanced pre-workout meal plan works wonders for your body and accelerates you towards your fitness goals.