Proper nutrition is one of the most important factors when it comes to improving your health.
This is also true when it comes to getting the most out of your workouts.
How you eat around your workout plays a vital role in areas like:
- Losing fat
- Gaining energy
- Building strength
- Boosting performance
- Keeping you mentally focused and motivated
- Helping with recovery and soreness
This, combined with your workouts, will keep you on track to reach your fitness and health goals much quicker and more effectively than with exercise alone.
In part one of our two part workout nutrition series, we will be covering everything pre-workout nutrition.
The why, when and what to eat and drink before your workout.
First, let's get into the science behind what you are eating.
Properly fueling your body before exercise can be the difference between a good and great workout and an injury or non-injury.
Let's start with the fuel or what is known as carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are molecules in certain types of food and are great for producing energy, keeping you going during your workouts.
Our bodies break down the carbohydrates we store and eat into ready to use energy.
You probably know them as breads and pastas, but they also make up the majority of fruits and vegetables.
They are classified as simple (candy, soda, etc.) or complex (oatmeal, vegetables, etc). This refers to the number of sugars it has as well as the time it takes to be digested and absorbed.
Simple sugars absorb more quickly and are more likely to be stored as fat if not used for quick energy. The opposite is true for complex. They are slower to absorb and are great for sustaining prolonged workouts.
So, not all carbs are created equal and should not necessarily get the bad rap they've gotten the past few years.
Eating the right kinds, in the right amounts can fuel you to get the most out of your workouts.
We will get into what kind, how much and when to consume carbohydrates before your workout below.
When it comes to protein, most people think of foods like steak, chicken and fish.
Protein is made up of amino-acids -- the building blocks of life.
Our body uses the proteins to increase the amino-acid pool in our blood stream.
Our body pulls from this pool to repair and build various areas of our bodies, especially the muscles we've worked from a hard training session.
Some even say protein is the most important macronutrient we can eat!
I typically find that most people do not get enough and encourage people to eat protein at every meal.
We want a good amount of protein in our pre-workout meal to aid in muscle repair and recovery when we are done training.
We will cover some examples of what proteins to eat and when before you workout, below.
Something is better than nothing!
I often ask our members what they ate before their training session.
More often than not I hear, "nothing".
Most of them feel it is either too early to eat if they come to a morning session or fear they will be too full during their workout and get sick.
When you train on an empty stomach, you miss out on the many benefits of workout nutrition. Because you will be lacking carbohydrates (energy producer), you are going to have less energy, fatigue quicker, have decreased levels of power, strength and endurance. Also without available protein (muscle builder), your post-workout recovery will suffer as well.
In this case, something to give you a little fuel is better than nothing.
If you are in a rush or train early in the morning, keep it simple.
Foods like fruit, yogurt, toast and peanut butter work well.
Another great option is a powder BCAA (Branch-Chained Amino Acids) mixed in with some water can provide some fuel and aid in recovery.
A meal or snack?
Now that we know the importance of a pre-workout nutrition, the question becomes what and when should we eat?
We recommend if you are eating 2 hours before your workout, your pre-workout nutrition should be a meal.
This is a meal because of the time between your food and your workout.
You want available carbohydrate and protein when it's time to train.
Aim for a meal consisting of a 50/50 split of high-quality complex carbohydrate and protein and of course some water.
- 1-2 palm size chicken breasts with small side of rice and vegetables
- Protein Shake with spinach and frozen fruit
- Turkey sandwich with vegetables on wheat or gluten-free bread
- Grilled chicken salad with side of fruit or small sweet potato
* All with 16-24oz of water
** Size of meal depends on body size and duration/intensity of workout
If your pre-workout nutrition is going to be closer to your workout you will want to have a smaller snack that will not fill you up and will quickly absorb and digest to give you the fuel to train hard.
Again we are looking for a 50/50 split of carbs to protein.
- Plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- High quality protein bar
- Small protein shake
- Fruit and handful of nuts
* All with 8-12oz of water
Stay tuned for part two of our Workout Nutrition Series where we cover what to consume after your workouts!