Ever wonder what you should be eating before a workout to perform at your peak? Pre-workout nutrition has a direct impact on your metabolism and energy levels. After all, there’s a reason why fitness models and top athletes use protein shakes, creatine, caffeine, and other sports supplements before hitting the gym.
A balanced pre-workout meal can maximize your performance during training and speed up recovery. At the same time, it replenishes your glycogen stores, per the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
While muscle glycogen stores remain fairly stable overnight, liver glycogen content decreases rapidly during sleep. That’s partly due to fasting and party due to the brain’s demand for energy, according to the National Council on Strength and Fitness. For this reason, it’s important to fill up on carbs after waking up, especially if you exercise in the morning. You also need to make sure you’re getting enough protein, as it plays a key role in muscle growth and repair.
What to eat before a workout to optimize your performance
What you eat is just as important as when you eat. Your body has different nutritional requirements at different times of the day. For best results, plan your meals around your workouts. The National Academy of Sports Medicine says that athletes and gym-goers should opt for a relatively high-carb, moderate-protein meal or snack before training. Ideally, try to get about 1 gram of carbs per kilogram of body weight one hour prior to hitting the gym.
However, these guidelines may vary from one individual to another, depending on their fitness goals, workout duration, training intensity, and other factors. Runners, for example, have higher energy requirements than power athletes, as the International Sports Sciences Association explains. Therefore, they need more carbs on a daily basis.
A balanced pre-workout meal should also deliver moderate amounts of lean protein. Fiber and fats may cause digestive discomfort during training, so it’s better to consume them later in the day. If you work out in the evening, eat fruits, veggies, and other high-fiber foods at least three to four hours before exercise, recommends the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Depending on your schedule, you can have a meal or snack about one to four hours prior to training.
What to eat before a workout to maximize your energy
Generally, there are no set rules on what you should eat before a workout. It all comes down to your fitness goals and the sport practiced. Your overall diet matters, too. For example, if you’re on a ketogenic diet, you may not be able to fill up on carbs before training. In this case, it makes sense to increase your protein or fat intake to get the energy needed for a challenging workout. Both protein and dietary fats can serve as a source of fuel, notes the Michigan Medicine.
As far as pre-workout nutrition goes, there are plenty of healthy foods you can enjoy before exercise. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for instance, suggests eating Greek yogurt with berries, oatmeal with fruit, or apples with peanut or almond butter. Since nut butters are high in fat, try to keep your portions small. Consider these options, too: chicken or turkey breast and white rice, vegetable frittata, oatmeal with almond milk and sliced bananas, low-fat cottage cheese and berries, tuna and whole pasta, and chicken and yams.
Experiment with different foods to see how your body reacts. If you’re short on time or not feeling hungry, reach for a protein shake or smoothie. Another option is to drink a pre-workout cup of coffee for a caffeine boost. In this case, try to eat as soon as you finish your workout to replenish your glycogen stores and recover faster from training.
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