As a Personal Trainer, one of the most common questions I was asked by my clients was “What do I eat before a workout to get the most out of training?”
Back in the day, prior to my knowledge and research regarding the impact of grains and sugars on our bodies, I would recommend the tried and trusted ‘honey on one piece of toast’. This was a common recommendation amongst my peers along with powdered and packaged pre-workout supplements, often with crazy names such as ‘no explode’ and the like. Whilst, I support the hypothesis that not exploding during a workout is a good thing, my thoughts on pre-workout fuel have definitely changed.
So what should athletes eat to make sure they maximise strength and fitness gains?
The main goal of pre-workout nutrition is having enough energy to get through a gruelling session without vomiting, collapsing or getting hungry. There are two ways to attack this. If you have a sensitive stomach or are training in the afternoon, a small meal of around 500 calories around 2-3 hours before a workout should work well. Out of the three macro nutrients our bodies require, fat takes the longest to digest, followed by protein, then carbohydrates. As such, it is best to have a pre-workout meal or snack that is relatively low in fat, low to moderate protein and high in low fibre carbs.
Alternatively if you are training in the early morning or if it has been several hours since your last meal, you can try a smaller, high carb snack about 30-60 minutes prior to our workout. Some examples are listed below
- Omelet made from 2 egg whites, onions and mushrooms or selection of your favourite vegies.
- A few slices of turkey meat, 1 small tomato wrapped in a large lettuce leaf
- Small serve of brown rice with diced chicken and selection of your favourite vegies
- Small serve of raw, unsalted nuts and a piece of fruit
- Medium apple or banana
- Green smoothie made with a handful of frozen pineapple chunks, handful of spinach, two scoops of collagen powder and coconut water
- 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 1/2 cup fresh berries
It’s important to stick to a variety of healthy and nutritious foods if they are a main meal or just a snack to get us through the workout.
My recommendations centre around fresh whole foods and grain & sugar free choices to ensure that we are continuing to get a variety of nutrients from our food and continuing to decrease inter cellular inflammation. I also recommend that you experiment with different foods and timing to see what suits your individual needs.
Did you know that beets are high in nitrates. Supplementing with nitrates has been reported in numerous studies to enhance exercise endurance and power output and reduce fatigue. A 100ml glass of beetroot juice is a great beverage to have 30mins prior to a workout!