What is pre-workout nutrition?
It’s a no brainer that your body requires energy to exercise to its maximum potential. Whether it is high intensity interval training or endurance training, your energy levels must be high to prevent your muscles prematurely feeling fatigue, or completely exhausted. Food and supplements before your workout, when chosen carefully, can help support your workout and delay the feeling of fatigue by boosting energy levels.
Pre-workout nutrition can be taken in the form of a meal, a snack or a supplement. Each of which, the timings may vary - but protein should be a key nutrient in all of them to support muscle maintenance and growth, so that you can make every rep count.
Carbohydrates are directly linked to the body’s energy levels. They contain glucose, which help to increase glycogen levels for later blood sugar use in the body. With blood sugar levels elevated, energy is readily available to be burned.
Energy levels deplete rapidly during exercise and pre-and intra-workout supplements can help to ensure muscle stores and energy levels remain high for optimum performance. By topping up the stores you built pre-workout during exercise with an intra-workout supplement, you can help support your workout plan and training goals.
Here we explore the three types of pre-workout you can consume:
As a meal
A Pre-workout meal should be stacked with two of the main macronutrients: protein and carbohydrates, and should be eaten around two hours prior to exercise so that your body has enough time to digest it properly and put it to good use. The aim of a pre-workout meal is to saturate your muscle stores and provide your body with sufficient levels of energy.
Chicken, tuna, brown rice, vegetables, or an omelette packed with protein are ideal for a pre-workout meal. Carbohydrate is your priority before your workout. This is your opportunity to eat a meal rich in the key nutrients to prepare you for a workout. It should consist of around 300-400 calories and should fill you but not leave you feeling exceptionally bloated.
As a snack
Pre-workout Snacks can be eaten closer to your workout time, usually around 30 minutes before exercise begins. Only simple carbohydrates and protein should be consumed at this stage – complex carbohydrates cannot be digested in time for your workout. Some example snacks are:
- Peanut butter on rice cakes
- Tuna on white toast
- A banana
- 1-2 hardboiled eggs
- Greek yoghurt and berries
Your snack should be easily digestible.
As a supplement
When taking a pre-workout supplement, they are usually mixed with a liquid or blended with other ingredients to consume as a Pre-workout Shakes or drink. The main difference between pre-workout supplements is whether they include creatine as an ingredient. Protein supplements, which contain creatine, are beneficial for saturating your muscles with creatine stores so that they aren’t depleted so quickly – the compound is also linked to increasing physical performance; 3g/d creatine has been shown to increase physical performance during short-term, high intensity exercise.
However, creatine is not essential in pre-workout supplements. Other common ingredients include BCAAs, caffeine, protein, beta-alanine and carbohydrates. Creatine is already produced naturally in the body and sourced through protein in your diet.
Supplements are usually taken on the same timescale as a pre-workout snack – you would normally take one or the other, not both. Around 30 minutes before you begin to exercise this gives the shake enough time to be digested and benefit your workout. Always remember to follow manufacturer instructions for safe supplementation.
Whilst you’ll probably be aware that fluids are vital whilst working out to keep you hydrated, you should think about drinking plenty of water well before you start to exercise. You lose a certain amount of water when you sweat throughout exercise – so it is wise to drink plenty of water ahead of exercise so that you can maintain hydration throughout your workout.