Timing of pre-workout meal
Pre-workout meals should be eaten no less than 30 minutes prior to a workout. Choose foods that are easily digestible, like simple carbohydrates instead of high-fiber/ high-fat foods. For early morning sessions, keep it extra simple with maybe a piece or two of fruit or Greek yoghurt. A high-protein pre-workout is snack is recommended only if you can wait up to 2 hours until working out. Ideally, 30-40 grams carbohydrate and 10 grams protein is acceptable for strength-based workouts, provided you eat an hour atleast prior. For cardio, running or other high-endurance activities, you can keep the timing more flexible.
Pre-workout nutrition: Role of each micronutrient
Your body primarily uses carbs to fuel workouts. While the muscle’s glycogen stores are the major repository of glucose, external intake of carbs is essential for long-duration exercises of high intensity. A multitude of studies have shown that carbs not only replenish existing glycogen stores but also maximize its utilization by boosting glucose metabolism during exercise. Carb-loading, a widely reported method of increasing glycogen stores essentially involves consuming carb-rich foods.
Pre-workout protein intake has been repeatedly linked with improved athletic performance. Eating protein along with carbs not only increases muscle mass but also leads to better recovery and high lean body mass. Typically, expert gurus recommend having a certain amount of why protein prior to strength training to trigger anabolism of muscle proteins.
The body tends to rely on glycogen stores to derive glucose for short-duration/high-intensity workouts and turns to stored fat for slow-intensity/long-duration workouts. Increasing fat intake has been linked with higher endurance in runners.
To sum up, carbs are great for high-intensity workout while fats are probably useful for moderate intensity/long-duration sessions. Proteins are the optimal choice for workout goals linked with bodybuilding.
Good hydration has been linked with optimal performance. While working out, you’re likely to lose water through sweat and breath. Starting your workouts in a dehydrated state will only leave you feeling dizzy and lethargic, as your muscles won’t work well and developing cramps will be easier due to reduced intake of sodium. Drinking between 17-50 ounces of water 10 minutes before exercise is recommended. Also, to restore fluid balance in the body following workout, aim to drink atleast 1-2 litres of water. Even if you can’t take it all in at one go, try to spread it across the next few hours. This is important because you tend to keep losing fluid through sweat and urine even hours after the session.
Below we have a quick rundown of low-calorie snack options to consider for your pre-workout:
-A handful of seasonal berries
-A large, ripe banana
-A slice of wholewheat brown bread topped with peanut butter
-Sweet potato fries
-A cup of dried fruit
-Low-carb cereal/muesli with ¼ cup milk
-Oatmeal or porridge
-A cup of almonds soaked overnight
-Boiled eggs (only whites for protein)
Importance of pre-workout
The first question to ask yourself is do you even need to eat before working out? That entirely depends on the timing of your last meal and your fitness goals. For example, the lunch you ate can fuel your evening workout effectively, but if you are planning on working out in the morning after an early dinner, that might not be the best idea. Then again, working out in fasted state is recommended for faster weight loss, especially if your workout sessions are predominantly cardio-based and no more than 1 hour of duration. On the contrary, if you aim for muscle building, or wish to maximize your performance in high-duration/high-intensity workouts lasting more than an hour, do consider having a light, low-calorie snack beforehand.
All in all, there’s no rule of thumb when it comes to pre-workout meals. As a beginner, be open to experimenting with a variety of food choices, while making sure to time your workouts no more than an hour after snacking. Overall, pre-workout snacks will not only replenish your body with the right amount of nutrients but also maximize muscle recovery and contribute to lean body mass, making you stronger and more capable of switching to more rigorous workout sessions.