What should you eat before working out?
It may seem that nutrient timing (what you should eat when) is the most important factor when it comes to changing your body as you workout. The truth is, for most of us… it’s not.
That’s not to say it doesn’t play an important role, but it really doesn’t have to be as complicated as the inter-web loves to make it.
The main thing to focus on for a pre-workout meal is making sure that you feel good so you can perform your best during your time in the gym.
A pre-workout meal should be like most other well-considered meals.
You want to have high quality options for all of your macronutrients: carbs, proteins and fats.
You should have this meal somewhere between 1-3 hours before your workout, it’s all going to depend on how you feel best, keep you energized, perform well, stay hydrated, save muscle and aid in recovery.
If stressing out about exactly what you should have before a workout is actually getting in the way of eating healthy, all you need to know is this:
Have a well-balanced, high quality meal that makes you feel and perform well 1-2 hours before you workout. You might need to experiment personally to find out what works for you, but it’s all part of the process.
If you like knowing more about what all is going on in your body, then you can dive a little bit deeper into it.
Carbohydrates are going to provide you with energy, so depending on how long you’re working out you may need more or less. These carbs will be used for energy so you can spare using your muscle (which you’re trying to build or at least keep!) and let your brain know you are fed.
Carbohydrates also release insulin into your blood stream. When this is combined with protein in your system as well, it promotes protein synthesis (building) and prevents protein degradation (breakdown).
Whole food carbohydrate sources: sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash, steel cut oats
Protein is needed, most obviously, for your muscle. You don’t want your body to start breaking down the muscle you have for energy, so making sure you have protein in your system will maintain or build more muscle and help decrease the amount of damage to your muscles.
Whole food protein sources: poultry, eggs, lean meats
Fats don’t seem to make your performance better or worse, but they do slow digestions to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Getting hungry mid-workout is not a great feeling, so they are important. Healthy fats are also packed with vitamins and minerals that do us good whether we’re working out or not.
Whole food fat sources: avocados, nuts, oils
If you’re 2-3 hours away from your workout, you can have a meal with whole foods and should be feeling fine by the time you get to the gym.
A quality pre-workout meal could look something like this: roasted sweet potatoes cooked in olive oil, 2 over-easy eggs, and sautéed spinach.
If you’re less than an hour from getting your workout started, you’d be better off having your meal in liquid form or something that’s quick to digest. It will be faster to digest that way, so make a shake.
A high quality pre-workout shake could look something like this: banana, kale, protein powder and almond butter.
If you’re reading these meals and are thinking “where did the vegetables come from?” just remember… we all need more veggies in our lives. Try to get some in every time you eat!
It will take a little experimenting and trial-and-error to determine what works best for you pre-workout. Your main focus: high quality foods that make you feel and perform your best.