Good nutrition is the key to maximizing athletic performance and achieving fitness goals. Although some people prefer working out in a fasted state, optimal nutrient intake before you train provides you with enough energy to power through the most challenging parts and minimizes muscle damage. If you are an athlete, gym-goer, or fitness enthusiast, you would not want to feel sluggish or lethargic during exercise or workouts.
Each macronutrient has a specific role in fueling our energy levels, adding strength and providing recovery. However, the ratio varies depending upon the type of workout, timing and intensity.
Let us discuss the primary role of each macronutrient.
- Carbohydrates: They are the immediate energy source for our muscles. Carbs are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, which deliver energy during high-intensity workouts. A depletion in glycogen stores can cause a significant dip in athletic performance. Studies support that carb-loading or consuming carbs in a pre-workout meal help boost glycogen stores and carb oxidation during exercise.
- Proteins: Protein intake is beneficial not only post-workout but also before a workout. An adequate amount of protein in a pre-workout meal promotes anabolism, enhanced recovery, lean muscle gain and reduced muscle damage.
- Fats: After glycogen, our body derives energy from the fat stores during long and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise. Hence, including a healthy fat source is reasonable for your workout nutrition.
This section will talk about some of the best pre-workout foods you may include in your diet.
Banana: Bananas are a popular pre-workout snack preferred by bodybuilders and fitness lovers. Natural sugars present in bananas provide instant energy and help boost glycogen stores. Also, being a good source of potassium, bananas help prevent muscle cramps and maintain electrolyte balance.
Peanut Butter: This is another tastiest and healthy pre-workout snack before hitting the gym. Peanut butter is an incredible source of energy, protein, dietary fibre and good fats. Whenever you feel low on energy levels or need something quick to energize you prior to your exercise or training session, try peanut butter to get that instant kick. You can either eat a spoonful of peanut butter as it is or use it as a spread.
Fruit Yoghurt: Combining the intake of yoghurt and fruit provide carbs, probiotics, prebiotics, high-quality protein, good fats, and a mixture of vitamins and minerals. It has the potential to exert synergistic effects on energy levels and muscles. Just add any fruit of your choice, like mango, berries, apple or pomegranate, to Greek yoghurt, and your pre-workout snack is ready.
Oats Porridge: This pre-workout snack is excellent to ensure a sustained energy supply and keep you satiated for long due to the presence of complex carbohydrates. You can have it two hours before going for a workout so that you are all set for those heavy lifts and demanding endurance while you train.
Protein Shakes: Protein is crucial for bone, muscle and immune health. A protein shake is a convenient and nourishing way to deliver all the essential amino acids to the body, like BCAAs, that minimizes muscle damage during workout and elevate muscle protein synthesis post-workout.
Whole Eggs: Eggs are super healthy and incredibly nutritious. They are a great source of muscle-building protein and amino acids. Eggs are ideal for providing your body with all essential amino acids and vital nutrients, great to boost fat burning and still a low-calorie snack. You can enjoy eggs in the soft-boil, omelette, scrambled or any form that you prefer.
In addition, it is necessary to maintain hydration as studies have shown that even 2% of dehydration can significantly affect your exercise performance.
Ideal timing of a pre-workout meal
The timing of your pre-workout meals and snacks is another crucial aspect that one should never overlook.
- If you prefer eating a complete meal containing a balanced proportion of carbs, proteins and fats, it should ideally be taken 2-3 hours before your workout.
- If you have a window of 45-60 minutes for your pre-workout meal, prefer foods that are easy to digest. The foods should be rich in carbs with some proteins to quickly raise blood sugar levels and yield energy without causing stomach discomfort.
To sum up, pre-workout meals are advantageous; they give you more energy, increase muscle growth and prevent breakdown. No matter what foods you consume, they should be nutritious and power-packed. You can also experiment and make creative pre-workout foods combinations as per your workout demands.