To see real exercise results you must concentrate not only on what you do in the gym, but what you do outside of it. This means that the foods you eat and the timing of the foods you eat play a vital role in how effective your workouts are.
One crucial meal that could make or break your workout is your pre-workout meal. Working out on an empty stomach is a common mistake and can really limit the effectiveness of a workout. By making sure your body has the energy it needs to put forth maximum effort, you can have more productive workouts.
Regardless of your exercise goals, a carefully planned pre-workout meal will ensure that you always enter the gym with the strength and energy you need to workout as efficiently as possible.
The 3 main goals of the pre-workout meal are as follows:
1.) Provide a steady stream of balanced energy for your mind and muscles throughout the workout.
2.) Maximize your strength and endurance potential.
3.) Minimize muscle breakdown and provide the raw tools for your body to begin the recovery process once the workout is over.
Around 60-90 minutes prior to entering the gym you should consume your pre-workout meal. The first essential component of this pre-workout meal is carbohydrates. Generally, it is beneficial to consume 1-2 portions of low-glycemic or complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are ideal before your workout because they are broken down and absorbed gradually into the bloodstream, providing your body with a steady stream of energy throughout your entire workout. Some appropriate pre-workout carbohydrate choices are: Sweet potatoes, oat meal, whole grain cereals (i.e. cheerios), brown rice, wheat bread, beans, and fruits.
Try to avoid high glycemic or simple carbohydrates prior to your workout. Unlike low glycemic carbohydrates, these high glycemic types of carbohydrates are rapidly released into your bloodstream. This rapid release of sugar will result in a quick rise in insulin levels followed by a sharp fall. This fall in insulin levels will leave you feeling weak, tired and sluggish. This is the last thing you want in the middle of a good workout, so choose carbohydrates that won't cause this rapid fluctuation in insulin levels.
In addition to carbohydrates, another important component of pre-workout nutrition is protein. Failing to consume pre-workout protein may cause your body to breakdown valuable muscle tissue, as it can be converted into energy. This pre-workout protein will keep help to prevent muscle catabolism (breakdown) as you exercise. Generally, prior to your workout, you should consume a portion of protein such as: lean meats, most any fish, eggs (especially the whites), milk protein isolate, whey protein, soy protein, and essentially most any other source of protein as long as it is low in saturated fat.
Your pre-workout meal should be fairly small to allow for easy digestion. Consuming a fairly small pre-workout meal will also prevent you from feeling sick while you are exercising. Remember, regardless of your mode of exercise, you should never go into your workout without having a meal in you first.
Matt, Exercise Specialist and Greenville Personal Trainer