Pre-workout fueling is essential for a good training session. A good training session allows your body to positively adapt to the training stimulus. Think better results, faster! How does this happen, you ask? By giving your body the proper nutrients it needs, your body will digest and turn this food into useable energy. However, it is important for you to know how to combine your nutrients to get the most out of your food. You can’t eat just anything and expect the same results. Read on to find out what to eat to make your next training session a success!
Pre-workout nutrition is a vital part of exercise. The reason for this is the importance of fueling your body with the energy it requires to perform at top notch. The best combination to consume is mostly carbohydrates with some protein, and a small amount of fat.
Think Carbs, a little protein and low fat…
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel and energy source. Having an adequate amount of carbohydrates ensures blood sugar is maintained and will minimize fatigue, “hitting the wall” and allow you to work harder and longer. Proper workout nutrition also prevents hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can cause dizziness, weakness or nausea and will stop a workout in its tracks. The type of carbohydrate is also important. This is the time when you do not (yes, I said do not!) want whole grains or fiber-rich foods. Think quick digesting white bread, pretzels, fruit (high in fructose= quickly absorbed), low-fat white crackers, Gatorade, etc. Whole grains contain too much fiber and will slow down the digestion of the food and can lead to stomach upset.
Protein before a workout is only necessary if your session will be an hour or longer. A small amount of protein (3-10 grams) will help to “time release” your energy out of your carbs. This is because protein takes longer to digest than carbs, so your food will stay with you slightly longer. It will not make you faster or stronger but will help to save your muscles from burning out too fast. However, too much protein (such as a protein shake) or too much fat can be detrimental to your workout. This is again because protein and fat take a long time to digest. If you eat too much prior to a workout, then the majority of your blood is diverted to your stomach to help digest the food. Now all that oxygen that is carried in your red blood cells is not being delivered to your working muscles where it should be. Instead, it’s being delivered to your working stomach. This can potentially cause you to have less available energy during your workout= not positive adaptations.
Make sure to give yourself at least 30 minutes prior to a workout and avoid large meals. Large meals take longer to digest and will leave you feeling sluggish. The amount of calories to consume is determined by an individual’s personal needs, but in general requires 100-500 calories. And as always, remember to properly hydrate!
Use this chart to help guide you:
30 minutes before 100 calories Example: Apple
1 hour before 100-300 calories Example: 1 low-fat string cheese and banana
2 hours before 200-400 calories Example: Nature Valley granola bar and 8 oz skim milk
3 hours before 300-500 calories Eat a balanced meal: turkey sandwich with lite mayo, lettuce & tomato with a piece of fruit
More Examples of Nutritious Pre-workout Snacks:
• 1 Hard Boiled-egg, 1 slice of white bread and a handful of strawberries
• 6 oz yogurt (preferably not Greek, too much protein) with low-fat granola and berries
• Low-fat string cheese and 1 banana
• 1 granola bar and low-fat/skim milk or yogurt
• ¼- ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1 c. fruit (strawberry or pineapple)
• 2 rice cakes with 1-2 Tbs. nut butter
• ½ a peanut butter and banana sandwich on white/pumpernickel/rye/sourdough bread
• 1 apple with 1 Tbs. peanut butter and low-fat milk
A note on pre-workout supplements…
No pre-workout supplement is completely safe and every body will react differently. I recommend food first, supplements second approach. If your diet and workout fueling is off then no supplement is going to be a wonder pill. Supplements are meant to only supplement what you are already doing. With that said, caffeine and creatine have been found to be effective are relatively safe for most people when taken in moderate amounts. However, that doesn’t mean go out and buy the next pre-workout supplement you see with these two ingredients. I recommend following these guidelines on pre-workout fueling and adding in a cup of coffee, which will help to give you a little extra boost without overdoing it. If you have a heart condition, are sensitive to caffeine or don’t like coffee then just forgo this and fuel up on real food!
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