This is a common question I get from clients, so I’m going to answer it for all of you,
Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster each workout.
Eating a proper workout meal will not only help you maximise your performance but also minimise the damage you do to your muscle.
Each macronutrient has a specific role for exercise performance.
Eating protein before a workout prevents muscle breakdown. People make the mistake thinking they have to destroy their muscles. You don’t. You stimulate them, get out the gym, recover with rest and nutrition and the muscle comes back bigger and stronger. Do this consistently, and you’ll see an increase in muscle size.
Your muscles will recover faster as they haven’t broken down as much, and you should also feel stronger in the gym with increased muscle performance.
When exercising, your muscle use glucose from carbs for fuel. This glucose can then be stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. For short and high intensity exercise such as one of my personal training sessions, glycogen stores are your muscles main source of energy.
Now the longer the exercise goes on (think hours), your limited glycogen stores will start to become depleted, and your output and intensity start falling.
While glycogen is used for short term and high intensity exercise, fat is the fuel for longer and low to moderate intensity exercise. Since my hour session includes weights and cardio, it is advisable to have some fat in your meal too.
Timing is Key
When you work with me, it should be clear what a good balanced meal looks like. If you don’t, you clearly haven’t read the nutrition advice I gave you. A good meal will contain all 3 macros, so should have a healthy balance of protein, fats and carbs.
So if you’re eating balanced meals already, well done. Now this is where timing is key.
Do you think it would be comfortable to eat this meal, and train hard 30 minutes later? What about an hour? 90 minutes?
I don’t know your answer, but I couldn’t. I would most likely be sick.
I could probably train pretty comfortably 2-3 hours later however. So there’s part of the answer to the question.
Now, what if you can’t get a full meal in 2-3 hours before working out.
What if you only have 60 minutes?
You can still get in a decent preworkout meal, but it would make sense to make the portions smaller. You’ll also want to eat foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein.
This will prevent any stomach discomfort or being sick all over your gym.
Now that’s out the way, lets look at some examples for every scenario you may find yourself in.
Examples of What to Eat Before a Workout
If your workout starts within 2-3 hours
if your workout starts within 2 hours
if your workout starts within an hour or less
The Missing Link – Stay Hydrated
We’ve spoken about food, but make sure you drink water. Being dehydrated just a little bit leads to a reduction in performance. An easy way to know if you’re hydrated is to refer to this urine chart.
To maximise your training performance, its important to fuel your body with the right nutrients. Protein helps improve muscle growth, prevent muscle damage and promote recovery. Carbs help maximise your bodies ability to use glycogen to fuel short and high intensity exercises. Fat helps fuel your body for longer exercise sessions.
You should also eat the right meal for the right circumstance. Remember timing is key.
Good hydration is also linked to better performance.
Liked the article? Why not leave a comment, and give me some ideas on your own pre-workout meals?
Know any friends who are confused about what to eat before a workout, be sure to share it with them in email or on social media.