Even though professional athletes have always tailored their diet to incorporate the right macronutrients in their pre and post-workout meals, few fitness enthusiasts out there truly do their best to apply the same principle to their own eating regime. We now have access to a wide range of options, unlike famous lifters of yore, such as Ric Drasin, who closed down many an all-you-can-eat restaurant with their eating habits in the ‘70s.
In his own words, it was all about pure protein and few carbs before every training session, to maximize their results. It’s true that no two athletes are the same, so we all treat and carve our own nutrition plans, but the essence of what and when to eat before you train applies to every single one of us.
If you’re still having second thoughts as to your pre-workout eating plan, you mostly eat random meals just to avoid being hangry, and you’re not happy with your results – this is a guide for you. Simple corrective measures within your eating style can help you maximize your potential during training, provide you with ample energy, aid your recovery, and push you towards your fitness goals faster than ever. And yes, it’s all down to your nutrition!
Why does it matter?
First of all, your fitness goals will define your nutrition to a great extent. What this means is that someone who wishes to bulk up on lean muscle will eat differently from someone who is looking only to gain strength, or someone preparing for a marathon. So, before you can sit down and list out your meals, think about what you want to achieve with your training.
Many people manage to train successfully on an empty stomach, but their exercise routines are often on the lower end of the intensity scale. A light jog around the block or a few sets of bodyweight exercises don’t really require that much energy after all. If your workouts are long and arduous, you will definitely need to factor in your eating plan before you train, so that you:
- Provide your body with enough sustainable energy for the duration of your workout
- Enable muscle-protein synthesis
- Slow down muscle breakdown
- Help your body recovery post-workout
- Maximize your performance during training
Fuel up on carbs
If there’s a single aspect of pre-workout nutrition that all of science wholeheartedly agrees upon, it’s your carb consumption. Once again, people have managed to train successfully without a meal before their training, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most optimal way to go about your fitness routine.
As a simple guideline, you can eat anywhere between 30 to 40g of carbs an hour or two before your workout. Those carbs include, for example, an oatmeal, as your slow-digesting, fiber-packed carb meal, mixed with a bit of an immediate energy source such as some fresh fruits, such as oranges, bananas, or blueberries. You can, of course, swap them for some rice, or a vegetable salad with some whole-grain bread.
The key purpose of your carbs is to keep those stores of glycogen in your muscles high, so that you can train intensely enough to achieve your goals. You cannot possibly expect your body to exert the same amount of effort with depleted glycogen stores, and not to mention the lack of energy and its impact on your motivation and ability to push yourself.
Utilize other sources of energy
Once upon a time, supplements weren’t as significant as they are today, and the first one to show up on the market, Ultimate Orange, was soon banned due to its connection to causing heart attacks. The first supplement to appear was also the first one to teach us about the importance of picking supplements with carefully-chosen ingredients on the list, and caffeine has always stirred up controversy in the bodybuilding ranks. While it was once deemed poisonous, the silver and golden bodybuilders as well as strongman athletes have made coffee what it is today in terms of a pre-workout energy-booster.
Even today, you’ll come across plenty of contradicting opinions on coffee and its impact on our health and workouts. However, studies have shown that caffeine indeed helps boost your endurance, helps your muscles produce more strength, and gives you more energy to complete your training successfully. Professionals regularly consume a cup of joe, some even mix it with almond or full-fat milk, depending on their goals.
However, in order to fully utilize the power of caffeine, you can consume it in an energy drink, where it’s paired with other energy-boosting natural components such as Teacrine. The key here is to steer clear of beverages that contain high amounts of sugar and sweeteners, but opt for pure, carb and sugar-free energy sources, instead. That way, you’ll provide your body with an immediate dose of stimulation without the added calories or stress on your digestive tract.
Time your protein portions
As the building blocks of life, proteins are vital for your health, resilience, and of course, your fitness goals. Plus, if the likes of Schwarzenegger and Dresin swore by this macro back in the golden era of bodybuilding, who are we to question their methods? Whether you’re looking to shed fat, pack on more muscle, or simply maintain your current physique, every single nutritionist out there will make sure that your diet has ample protein included.
However, unlike carbs, your body takes longer to digest protein, which means that you can go without it immediately before your training session, if you’ve had a filling, protein-rich breakfast, for instance, several hours earlier.
On the other hand, in case you haven’t had your dose of protein in a while, consuming BCAAs approximately half an hour prior to your workout can aid in muscle-building and repair after you go home post-training. This is especially handy for athletes who work out early in the morning and haven’t had a decent meal since the day before, as well as working people who hit the gym right after work.
It boils down to being specific about what you wish to achieve, and finding healthy ways to do so with the help of the right diet and the perfect workout system. Let your pre-workout nutrition help you train harder, and you’ll be even more motivated to stick to your new dietary and workout goals!