Before exercising, it is important to fuel your body for the work that it is about to do. Eating too little or not at all before a workout will likely lead to quick fatigue and weakness due to low blood glucose. On the other hand, consuming too much food before exercise may cause stomach discomfort, nausea or cramping. The pre-workout meals you choose to consume is just as important as eating pre-workout. The timing of meals as well can affect energy levels during exercise.
A good pre-workout meal plan should incorporate protein rich foods with carbohydrates. Of course, carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. These macro-nutrients can be further broken down into two groups – complex carbs and simple sugars. The type of carbs to eat before an exercise session largely depends on the timing of a meal.
Generally, food sources with simple sugars digest quickly and provide the body with fast acting glucose. For this reason, they make good snacks, which you can eat 30 minutes to an hour before exercise.
On the other hand, complex or low GI carbohydrates are best eaten at least 3 hours before workouts since they take longer to digest. On the plus side, such carbohydrates will give the body a slow release of energy, allowing you to exercise for longer without experiencing total fatigue in the middle of your workout.
Proteins consumed pre-workout help to prevent muscle catabolism during the exercise session. Although high in calories, fats should be avoided before workouts since they metabolize slowly. In fact, they can leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.
Top 5 Pre-Workout Meals
Now that you know what nutrients are most beneficial to the body before exercise, the next step that follows is coming up with a pre-workout meal plan. Here are a few suggestions for top 5 foods to eat before a workout. Take note also of the recommended meal timing for the various foods.
1. Chicken, Brown Rice and Leafy Greens
This dish will fully nourish your body if taken 3-hours before you hit the gym, running track or aerobics class. A meal like this will provide you with low-fat protein from the lean chicken to promote muscle anabolism as well as a slow release of energy from leafy greens and the brown rice.
2. Wholegrain Bread
Adding wholegrain bread to your pre-workout meals are highly recommended if you engage in endurance training activities like running, cycling or swimming. When consumed 2-3 hours pre-workout, wholegrain bread will help your body to increase glycogen reserves and provide a slow release of energy to fuel you throughout the exercise session.
3. Eggs – pre-workout meals for bodybuilders
Eggs are great pre-workout foods for bodybuilders. Whether you like them fried, scrambled or boiled, they are rich in protein. As a result, eggs supply the body with branched chain amino acids, which prevent muscle breakdown in case glycogen reserves run out as you exercise. What’s more, you can control the fat and cholesterol content by removing the egg yolk. Eggs should be consumed 2-3 hours before your workouts to ensure ample digestion time.
4. Greek Yogurt and Dried Fruit
Dried fruits and yogurt can be consumed 1-1.5 hours before exercise. They will provide the body with a quick source of simple sugars and protein. For the best results, opt for low-fat, Greek yogurt, which tends to have the highest protein content.
Sometimes it can be hard to find time for whipping up a meal or even wholesome snack before heading out to the gym or running trail. In such cases, a quick dose of carbohydrates is your best bet to invigorate the body before the workout. Apples are healthy energizing foods that will boost your glucose levels when consumed even 30-40 minutes before a workout.
Lastly, remember to drink enough water before your workouts to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and loss of coordination, which may increase risk of injuries during exercise. Try drinking 16-24 ounces of water an hour before workouts and at least 7-10-ounces every 20-30 minutes of exercise.