Pre-workout Nutrition: What Is The Best Food Before Workout?

7 min read
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Feb 4, 2024
Pre-workout Nutrition: What Is The Best Food Before Workout?
Before working out, combining carbohydrates and protein can enhance both performance and recuperation. It's crucial to stay hydrated, and some supplements—like caffeine or creatine—might be helpful.
Fitness lovers and athletes are constantly seeking for methods to reach their objectives and perform better.
Your body can function more efficiently and recuperate from workouts more quickly with a healthy diet.
In addition to helping you perform at your best, eating the right foods before exercise will reduce the amount of damage that is done to your muscles (1).
Everything you need know about nutrition before working out is provided here.

Knowing which food to eat is important

You'll perform better if you give your body the proper nutrition before a workout session to offer you the energy and strength you need.
Prior to an exercise, each macronutrient has a distinct function. But the proportion in which you should eat them differs depending on the person and the kind of exercise (1).
A basic overview of each macronutrient's function is given below.

Carbs

Glucose from carbohydrates is used as fuel by your muscles.
The body uses glucose and stores it in glycogen, primarily in the muscles and liver.
Your muscles use their glycogen stores as their primary energy source during brief, intense activity (1).
However, the amount of carbohydrates used during lengthier workouts varies depending on a number of circumstances. These consist of your general diet, the sort of training, and its intensity (1).
The glycogen stores in your muscles are finite. When these reserves run out, you produce less and become less intense (1).
Carbs can enhance glycogen oxidation during exercise and increase glycogen storage and use, according to numerous studies (2).
One popular strategy for optimizing glycogen storage is carb loading, which is following a high-carb diet for one to seven days (3, 4).

Protein

Pre-workout protein consumption has been shown in numerous studies to have the ability to enhance athletic performance.
Prior to exercise, eating protein—alone or in combination with carbohydrates—has been demonstrated to boost the synthesis of muscle protein (5).
In comparison to a placebo, a small research indicated that taking 25 grams (g) of whey protein prior to exercise increased whole body anabolism, or muscle growth (6).
Eating protein before working out has additional advantages as well (6, 7, 8, 9):
  • A rise in muscular mass
  • Enhanced muscle recuperation
  • Enhanced power and slender physique
  • Increased strength and power

Fat

For extended, moderate-to-low intensity activity, fat serves as the fuel source, whereas glycogen is utilized for brief, high-intensity workouts (10).
A few studies have looked into how eating fat affects an athlete's ability to perform. But instead of examining high-fat diets before exercise, these trials examined them over an extended period of time (11).
For instance, a review discovered that when combined with high intensity interval training (HIIT), a low-carb, high-fat diet could enhance maximal oxygen absorption and improve body composition (12).

OVERVIEW

Fat helps sustain your body for longer, less strenuous workouts, while carbs help maximize glycogen storage for high-intensity exercise. In the meantime, protein enhances the production of muscle proteins and promotes healing.

The key to a successful pre-workout meal is time

Another crucial component of pre-exercise nutrition is when you eat.
A full breakfast with carbohydrates, protein, and fat should ideally be consumed two to three hours prior to working out in order to optimize the benefits of your training.
This is particularly crucial for longer workouts because research indicates that pre-workout meals have little effect on performance in workouts lasting less than an hour (1, 13, 14).
You might not always be able to eat a complete meal two to three hours before working exercise, though.
You can still have a respectable pre-workout meal in that scenario. But remember that the meal should be smaller and simpler the earlier you eat before working out.
If you eat 45–60 minutes before working exercise, pick easy-to-digest foods that are mostly composed of carbohydrates with a small amount of protein.
This will lessen the chance of experiencing any tummy pain when exercising.

OVERVIEW

It is advised to have a substantial meal two to three hours prior to working exercise. Choose simpler carbohydrates and some protein for meals that are consumed closer to your workout.

Several illustrations of pre-workout meals

The kind, length, and intensity of your exercise determine what foods and quantities you should eat.
Eating a combination of carbohydrates and protein before working out is a solid general rule (1).
A few instances of well-balanced pre-workout meals are as follows:
If you begin working out in two to three hours or less
  • Lean protein, a whole-grain sandwich, and a side salad
  • A cup of fruit, a whole-grain toast with avocado smeared on top, and an egg omelet
  • Roasted veggies, brown grains, and lean protein
If you begin exercising in less than two hours
  • A protein smoothie consisting of milk, mixed berries, bananas, and protein powder
  • Milk and whole-grain cereal
  • A cup of porridge with almond slices and a banana on top
  • On whole-grain bread, a natural nut butter and fruit preserve sandwich
If you begin working out in less than an hour
  • Fruit and greek yogurt
  • Protein-rich nutrition bar
  • A fruit chunk, like an apple, banana, or orange
Remember that you can select any one of these pre-workout meals; you don't have to have multiple of them at different times.
Try varying the timings and nutrient combinations for optimal outcomes.

OVERVIEW

Protein and carbohydrates should be combined in pre-workout meals. The kind, length, and intensity of your exercise can affect what foods and quantities you should eat.

Before exercising, supplements might also be helpful

In sports, supplement use is widespread. These goods might increase lean body mass, boost strength, improve performance, and lessen tiredness.
Some of the top pre-workout supplements are listed below.

Creatine

Probably the most popular sports supplement is creatine.
It has been demonstrated to postpone fatigue and enhance muscular mass, strength, power, and muscle fiber size (15, 16).
Although taking creatine prior to exercise has its advantages, it appears to be much more advantageous when taken post-exercise (17).
It works well to take 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily (15).

Caffeine

Caffeine has been demonstrated to enhance performance, boost power and strength, lessen symptoms of exhaustion, and promote fat burning, among many other advantages (18, 19).
In addition to coffee, tea, and energy drinks, caffeine can also be found in pre-workout tablets and supplements.
The way it is consumed doesn't really matter because its effects on performance are usually the same.
The effects of caffeine peak 90 minutes after ingestion. It has been demonstrated to be beneficial, nevertheless, even when taken 15–60 minutes before exercise (19).

BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids

The essential amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine are referred to as BCAAs.
According to studies, using BCAAs prior to exercise can reduce muscle damage and boost the synthesis of muscle protein (20, 21).
At least 91 mg of BCAAs per pound (lb.) of body weight, or 200 mg per kilogram (kg), has been shown to provide the majority of its effects (22).
This indicates that a person weighing 165 pounds (75 kg) would require about 15 grams of BCAAs per day.

Beta-alanine

An amino acid called beta-alanine helps your muscles store more carnosine. It has been demonstrated to work best for quick, intense workouts.
It accomplishes this by lowering tiredness and boosting muscle endurance and exercise capacity (23, 24).
For a minimum of two to four weeks, a daily dosage of 4-6 g is advised (23).

Multi-ingredient energy drinks before working out

Products with a combination of the aforementioned supplements are preferred by certain consumers.
These components working together could have a synergistic impact and greatly increase performance (25).
Among the most often used constituents in these products are B vitamins, branched-chain amino acids, beta-alanine, creatine, and caffeine (25, 26).
It has been demonstrated that these pre-workout supplements improve anaerobic power, strength, endurance, attention, and alertness in addition to increasing work output (25, 26).
Although the specific dosage varies depending on the product, taking them 30 to 45 minutes before exercise is generally advised.

OVERVIEW

Before an exercise session, beta-alanine, BCAAs, caffeine, and creatine are frequently advised. For maximum advantages, multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements blend a variety of substances.

Staying hydrated is also essential

For your body to work, it needs water.
Sustaining and improving performance has been demonstrated by adequate hydration, but notable declines in performance have been associated with dehydration (27, 28).
It is advised to eat sodium-rich foods and plenty of water before working out. Fluid equilibrium will be enhanced by this (29, 30).
Drinking gently is advised by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) at least four hours before engaging in physical activity. You should drink a little bit more around two hours prior to exercising if you have dark or concentrated urine or if you don't generate any at all (31).
To aid with fluid retention, they also advise having a snack or drink that includes salt (31).

OVERVIEW

Water is necessary for optimal performance. Before engaging in physical activity, it is advised to consume water and sodium-containing beverages in order to maintain fluid balance and minimize excessive fluid loss.

Putting it all together

Before an exercise, it's critical to provide your body with the correct nutrition to optimize performance and recuperation.
While fat helps your body burn fat during longer exercise sessions, carbohydrates assist your body use glycogen to its fullest potential for short, high-intensity workouts.
Consuming protein enhances the production of muscle proteins, guards against muscle deterioration, and speeds up healing.
Improved performance is also associated with adequate hydration.
Meals for before exercise can be consumed three hours to thirty minutes beforehand. But pick items that are simple to digest, particularly if your training is just going to last an hour or so. You can prevent stomach discomfort by doing this.
Furthermore, a wide range of vitamins can support recuperation and enhance performance.
Ultimately, implementing basic pre-workout nutritional strategies can significantly enhance your performance and expedite your recovery.