Deciding what to eat day to day can be challenging. Choosing the best thing to eat – a meal that will give you energy to perform without making you feel too full, sick, or hungry – prior to a workout or training session can be even more challenging. Every workout is different, so how you fuel for each one will be different too. You probably wouldn’t eat the same breakfast before a 2K test as you would before a 10 mile run. Read on for some basic pre-workout meal guidelines and some ideas for before a workout.
Nutrients You Need
The two main nutrients your body needs prior to a workout are carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates are the most readily available form of energy and provide fuel for the body. Eating enough carbohydrates before you workout will provide the energy needed to complete the workout. On the other hand, not eating enough could mean you hit the wall before you’re done training. This can result in a less effective workout. Logically, you’ll see more metabolic and strength gains if you’re able to complete all of your workouts. Protein helps prevent hunger from setting in during the workout and is also important for recovery after the workout.
Nutrients to Avoid
Within 2-3 hours of a workout it is a good idea to avoid high fat and high fiber foods. Both of these foods take longer to digest than protein and carbohydrates. Too much fat too close to a workout can leave you feeling full, almost like exercising with a stone in your stomach, and too much fiber can cause upset stomach or stomach cramping.
What to Eat Before a Workout
It is important to eat a meal or snack higher in carbohydrates and moderate in protein before a workout. Carbohydrates should be easy to digest and familiar to you. If you’re just starting out and don’t know what works best for you, try out a few things on shorter or middle distance workouts. Try easily digested carbohydrates like bananas, apples, and dried fruit with lean protein like deli meat, chicken breast, or jerky. Protein should come from lean sources like chicken, deli meat, or jerky. Also watch out for “protein bars” as the may have more fiber and fat than is optimal.
How much carbohydrate you need before a workout will depend on the intensity and duration of the workout (i.e. how hard and how long you train). According to a statement by the American Council on Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), and the Dietitians of Canada, athletes should eat about 1/2 – 2 gramsof carbohydrate per pound of body weight a few hours before a workout. Since the body can only digest about 30 grams of protein at a time (the rest will be likely stored as fat), it is ideal to eat around 15-25 grams of protein before a workout. Too much protein, like fat and fiber, can also cause stomach discomfort.
Based on these recommendations, a 140 pound athlete should eat around 70-140 grams of carbohydrates before his or her workout. He or she should also eat about 15-25 grams of protein. This means breakfast can include 3 eggs, 1/2 an avocado, and a fruit smoothie with a banana, 1/2 cup of blueberries, and 1 cup of orange juice (618 calories, 77 g of carb, 23 g of protein) and should be eaten 1-2 hours prior to the workout.
What About Water?
Besides being well fueled, you should also be well hydrated before a workout. Throughout the day, athletes usually need 30 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. Drink 2-3 ml of water per pound of body weight a few hours before a workout, and then another 8 oz of water 15 minutes beforehand. This means that our 140 pound athlete should be drinking 8 glasses of water throughout the day. In addition he or she should be drinking 1-2 cups of water before a workout and a final cup right before hand.
Pre Workout Meal Ideas
1If your pre workout meal is breakfast
2 eggs, 2 slices of Canadian bacon, 1 8 oz glass of OJ, and 1 banana
2 If your pre workout meal is lunch
3 ounces grilled chicken breast, salad with dried cranberries and almonds, 1 apple, 1 oz sweet potato chips
3 If your pre workout meal is a snack
3 ounces deli meat, 1 banana, 1 TB nut butter or 1/4 cup nuts
To Wrap It Up…
- Eat a meal or snack high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein so you have energy to crush your workout and feel awesome during it.
- Know how much water you need to drink…and drink it.
- Avoid high fat and high fiber foods within 2 hours of a workout (unless it is a very light one, like walking).