When you hear from a gym buddy that they’re taking pre-workout, you always assume that they’re about to drink some Nitric Oxide powders (such as Jack3D and C4). They’re good alternatives to lifting good amount of weights, but just like supplements vs. real food, it’s the real ones that does count really well for your body.
Now What Is A Real Pre-Workout Meal / Snack?
Pre-workout meals are whole food meals that should be eaten 3 hours before workout. When eating the right foods and amounts, these can include benefits like:
- More Energy During Workouts – Increasing your glycogen store before a workout can help improve your energy levels significantly. An intense workout can be very difficult to handle if you have a low carb diet, this is because glycogen stores are low.
- Protect Your Muscle – When you workout hard and with heavy weights, the body is in a catabolic environment, this can break down muscle tissue and use it as energy. So by eating a pre-workout meal, you can reduce muscle breakdown due to the nutrients consumed.
- Increase Muscle Growth – Eating protein during your workout meal slowly releases amino acids into your blood stream, this promotes protein synthesis. By breaking down muscle and consuming enough calories, muscle growth is improved.
Related Article: The Importance Of Post Workout Nutrition – What To Eat After A Workout
What To Eat & Best Time To Eat
To produce the best pre-workout meal for you, understanding the speed of digestion for different foods determine the meal time.
- Dietary fat takes 6-8 hours to digest.
- Protein 3-4 hours.
- Carbs 2-3 hours (depending on the source)
Digestion is the time taken for food to move from the stomach to the intestines. Total elimination of food can take anywhere from 24 hours to several days. Take note though, your meal does not have to be fully digested to have a great, energy filled workout.
What Your Pre-Workout Meal Should Look Like
- Dietary Fat – Fat takes the longest to digest, so your pre-workout meal should be relatively low in fat.
- Protein – Pre workout meals containing protein provide us with a major benefit- the prevention of muscle catabolism. By consuming a good source of protein before a workout you can give your body the amino acids- branched chain amino acids in particular, that it needs to prevent muscle breakdown, whilst aiding muscle recovery and growth.
- Carbohydrates – There are two types of carbohydrates: simple, high GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates and complex, low GI carbohydrates… but which one is best pre-workout? This ultimately depends on your goal and the time of your pre workout meal. Simple carbohydrates are great for 30 minutes to an hour before a workout as they provide the body with fast acting glucose as fuel. However, complex carbohydrates also play a role within your energy metabolism. By consuming low GI carbohydrates around 2-3 hours before a workout, you can give your body a slow releasing source of energy. This means you’ll be able to work out for longer and less likely to crash and burn in the middle of your training.
You need to know how much food you can eat pre-workout. This is calculated on your bodies own response. A meal around 500-600 calories for somebody like me, with 180lbs. weight, 2-3 hours before a workout is great during a fat loss program.
If you are an intense athlete, more carbs should be included. For building muscle, a larger pre-workout meal combined with a pre-workout protein shake is advised.
Pre-Workout Meal Ideas
Here’s an example of simple meal ideas that I normally make:
- Oatmeal with Whey Protein
- 2 Whole Eggs, 2 Egg Whites, Peppers, Onions, Low fat Cheese, Oatmeal.
- Boiled Banana (Saging Na Saba)
- 6 Ounces Grilled Chicken and asparagus
- Drink plenty of water! A good 16+ ounces will help you optimize performance.
If it’s been longer than 3 hours since your last meal, consider adding a pre-workout snack, such as fruit, some yogurt, or a simply a pre-workout protein shake.
For those who don’t have time for a pre-workout meal or snack, a simple energy sports drink with 5 grams of BCAA can improve energy levels and protect against catabolism.
Hope this helps! Cheers!