Pre Workout Nutrition | Prepare Your Body for Intense Activity
As we’ve discussed in previous articles on the site, workout sessions alone are great, and any workout plan is better than none at all. But the habits we build both inside and outside of the gym can strongly influence the returns we gain on the time and energy we invest in our workouts. And a little bit of attention paid to our overall lifestyle, including sleep and nutrition, can mean the difference between slow results and fast, efficient progress toward our training goals. What we eat and how we eat before, during and after an intense workout session can either help or interfere with muscle development, athletic performance, progress, and recovery.
Let’s focus for the moment on pre workout nutrition. Before an intense round of physical activity, it’s a good idea to develop a nutrition plan that accomplishes five things. Your pre workout nutrition choices should:
1. Provide sustained and steady energy that will last for the duration of the activity period
2. Ward off feelings of hunger during the workout session
3. Mobilize insulin and other hormones that expedite the conversion of complex carbohydrates and proteins to simple, easily burnable fuels
4. Help the body, specifically muscle tissue, recover quickly from stress and damage
5. Avoid standing in the way of your workout by causing stomach pain, nausea, cramping or other forms of discomfort.
These are the most important aspects of the best pre workout nutrition choices. As secondary considerations, our pre workout foods should provide fundamental nutrients like vitamins, calcium and anti-oxidants, and they should offer these nutritional benefits without contributing to excess body fat.
Altogether, this is a tall order. But it’s easy to find to foods that can provide these benefits if we’re paying close attention to what we eat and how our choices affect our individual body types.
Pre Workout Nutrition: What to Eat and When
Your pre workout nutrition choices begin several hours before your workout begins, and if you’ll be engaging in sustained activities that require high endurance and last longer than two hours, you’ll need to start thinking about pre workout nutrition twenty-four hours in advance or even longer.
During high endurance activities, our muscles eventually deplete their reserves of glycogen, or carbohydrate energy stored within the muscle tissue. Once these glycogen stores are gone, the body needs to mobilize glycogen from the liver, and eventually will start drawing energy from proteins taken from the muscle tissue itself. The more intra-muscular glycogen reserves we have stored, the longer we can delay this process.
But to build glycogen reserves within the muscle tissue, we need to start loading up on complex carbohydrates days in advance of the sustained activity period. If you’ll be running a long marathon, for example, start your pre nutrition regimen a few days ahead of time and eat plenty of unprocessed, unbleached whole grain carbohydrates like pasta, oatmeal, and rice.
Pre Work Nutrition for Non-Endurance Activity
But what if you aren’t running a marathon? If you’ll be engaging in intense activity that lasts for less than two hours, take these pre workout nutrition considerations into account.
First, if you have to choose between the dictates of your own body and the rules handed down by nutritionists, trainers or coaches, your body wins. No matter the source of a given piece of advice, if a pre workout food choice leaves you with discomfort, cramping, fullness, headaches, or jittery nerves, make a note of it, and don’t choose that food again. When it comes to pre workout nutrition, our bodies respond in unique ways to different foods, so pay attention and learn to connect your food choices to your performance and the way you feel during your workout.
That being said, most of us tend to benefit from a pre workout nutrition plan that looks something like this:
Three to Four Hours Before Your Workout:
Try to plan your largest and most important pre workout meal at least a few hours before you reach the field or gym. This way you’ll have the nutrients and energy you need, but your stomach won’t be full. A Full stomach doesn’t offer much benefit when you’re engaged in intense activity and can significantly slow you down. Most of that food won’t be useful to your muscles anyway until after it’s been digested and processed by the liver, which can take some time.
This far in advance, load up on nutrients (like those found in leafy green vegetables), proteins, and healthy whole grain carbohydrates. Choose pasta with tomato sauce, a baked potato, or a whole grain sandwich with peanut butter, cheese or lean meat.
One to Two Hours Before Your Workout:
At this point, start leaning away from complex proteins that are harder to digest and look for quick burning carbs and healthy sugars. Choose yogurt, pasta, oatmeal or fresh fruit.
Immediately Before a Workout
Just before your workout, feel free take in healthy, burnable energy sources, but don’t load your stomach. Reach for fluids like sports drinks or energy gels. If you need to eat, try fruits like watermelon, grapes, or oranges.
Pre Workout Nutrition: Additional Notes
Feel free to experiment with pre workout nutrition to find out what works best for your own body, but make sure you experiment wisely. Don’t try something new on the morning of an important race or game. And when you do make new pre workout nutrition choices, pay close attention to how you feel before, during, and after the activity period.
Some pre workout food choices, like caffeine, are the subject of ongoing research by nutrition experts and sports scientists, and the results of these studies continue to vary based on individual body types. For some, caffeine can boost performance in surprising ways. For others, it can cause nausea, distraction and jittery nerves. Approach caffeine, energy gels, supplements and any pre workout food choice with an open mind. But no matter how different foods may affect you, quick burning, whole grain carbohydrates offer the most reliable source of long burning fuel, so these should form the foundation of your pre workout nutrition plan.
Use these tips and suggestions to supplement your workout and reach your goals. To reach your goals at a rapid pace use Kbands, KB PowerBands, and KB Duo along with our workout plans to start seeing results today!