Best PRE Workout Foods

Much has been said about pre-workout foods.

Spend enough time online, and you’ll be sure to feel overwhelmed because there are so many opinions on the matter.

Luckily for all of us, pre-workout nutrition isn’t that difficult to master. So long as you understand what it should achieve, you can better choices quite easily.

With that in mind, let’s dig in.

The Goal of Pre-Workout Nutrition
Before getting into specific food recommendations, it’s a good idea to know what our pre-workout meals should achieve.

In general, pre-workout meals exist for four reasons:

  • Provide you with energy
  • Allow for optimal performance
  • Prevent too much muscle protein breakdown
  • Kickstart the recovery process as soon as possible

To achieve these effects, you need two nutrients: protein and carbohydrates.

Protein delivers amino acids - the building blocks of muscle and many other lean tissues in the body. Having protein before training slows down muscle protein breakdown, reduces the risk of muscle loss, and kickstarts the recovery process before we’ve even finished the workout.

Carbs are essential for many of the same reasons. As the primary energy source for the body, having carbs before training provides us with energy and optimises our performance. Carbs also begin to replenish lost glycogen before the workout is even complete, which allows for muscle protein synthesis - and, by extension, recovery - to occur uninterrupted.

You can also have some fats. But given that they prolong digestion and don’t have any acute effects on us, it’s best to limit them. Otherwise, you could find yourself with a heavy stomach and feeling nauseous.

The Best Pre-Workout Foods to Consider
Now that we’ve gone over the role of pre-workout nutrition, let’s discuss some specific food options:

  • Whole grain products - oatmeal, brown rice, bread, pasta, and similar
  • Fruits - bananas, apples, pears, peaches, berries, and similar
  • Starchy veggies - corn, potatoes, peas, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Protein powder
  • Meat, poultry, and fish

The farther away your workout is, the more food you can eat. For example, you can have a meal consisting of some meat, a couple of eggs, plenty of starchy veggies, and fruit for dessert. But, as you get closer to your workout, it’s better to limit the amount of food to prevent stomach issues.

For example, if you have to eat something an hour before your workout, it could be:

  • A slice of whole-grain bread topped with some butter and avocado
  • A couple of boiled eggs with a banana
  • A fruit salad with some nuts
  • A serving of protein powder with an apple

A Note On Dairy...
Before we wrap up this post, we’d like to write a few lines on dairy as a pre-workout food.

While beneficial and full of good micronutrients, having dairy before working out might not be the best idea. 

The issue is, dairy is typically high in fat and digests more slowly. Meaning, even if you have it a couple of hours before training, some can remain in your stomach as your workout begins. This can make you feel nauseous and sluggish, which is definitely not what you want during a workout.

So, it’s best to avoid foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt, and instead, reserve them for after your sessions.

July 27, 2021 — Daniel Felstein

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