Working out on an empty stomach can cause unneeded stress on your body but it also zaps your energy, preventing you from getting as successful of a workout as possible. Having a pre-workout meal that gives you the energy you need will help you achieve your fitness goals more quickly and ensure that your body doesn’t do more harm than good.
Powerful Combo – Complex Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats
Traditionally carbohydrates are our go-to source for energy, but adding some protein to the mix is important. Your pre-workout meal should give the body a boost of energy while also supplying the protein needed to repair the muscles that are going to be used. How much carbohydrate you need will of course depend on the exercise. Someone doing yoga will probably not need as much energy or protein as a runner training for a marathon or a body builder.
Carbohydrates are important in a healthy body but more and more research is starting to show that an ideal energy fuel is actually healthy fats. It’s a long-held myth that eating fat makes you fat. There are healthy fats that much be consumed to be at maximum health. Eating enough fat also ensure your workout burns stored fat in your body rather than precious muscle. The debate between fat vs carbs continue to rage on so it is wise to do your own research. Click this link to find a good starting place about fat as fuel.
Different Options for Healthy Pre-Workout Meals and Snacks
The following are a few different ideas for both meals and snacks that work well before a workout. This is just to give you an idea for what is useful as fuel for your body. If you follow a specific diet lifestyle you may need to tweak these a bit to work for you.
The pre-workout meal will consist of a carb and a fat/protein.
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat bread/tortilla
- Rice cakes
- Any other whole grains
- Various fruits
- Whole-grain pretzels
- Whole-grain crackers
- Fruit and veggies juice
- Diet-friendly power bars
Protein and Fat
- Lean meat like chicken or turkey
- Fish like salmon or tuna
- Red meat like steak if you follow such a diet
- Quinoa and buckwheat as well
- Cheese or cheese sticks
- Nut butters
- Peanut butter
- Dairy like yogurt or milk
- Soy or almond milk
- Chia seeds
As long as you have both a complex carb and a fat or protein, you should be fine. Putting together a pre-workout meal isn’t difficult. In fact, if you already eat a healthy breakfast (or whichever meal comes before your workout) you probably won’t even need to think twice about putting together something special.
How much should you eat? The amount of food will need to work with your overall calorie and nutrient goals.
A Word about Store-Bought Pre-Workout Drinks
There are many pre-workout drink mixes on the market that work very well for any fitness level. Most of these drinks are protein-based and also contain electrolytes to prepare your body for your impending workout. Some contain simulants, like caffeine. There is an odd myth that pre-workout shakes or protein shakes are suitable only for male, body builders. This simply isn’t true. We all need protein and even though many companies aim their marketing at men, don’t let these put you off.
A good quality pre-workout protein drink shouldn’t ideally replace an entire meal but it does work perfectly as a snack or a meal substitute if you really can’t eat but have an empty stomach. Do some research into these drinks before purchasing. Many are full of sugars and unnatural chemicals you don’t need. Your current fitness level and the type of exercise you do will dictate what pre-workout drink will be most appropriate for you.
When to Eat Your Pre-Workout Meal
Aim to have your pre-workout meal at least 2 hours before your workout. At a minimum, between 1 and 2 hours before your workout you will want to have a quick snack an hour for a boost.
Hydration cannot be underestimated. Drink plenty of water with your meal as well as right before and after exercising. At least 16oz 1 hour before your workout and at least another 16oz on hand if your workout is longer than half an hour. If you’re planning on a really strenuous workout you may want to drink water with added electrolytes. Some people use caffeine to give them an energy boost but this isn’t necessary for the average person. When it comes to supplements like that, it’s a matter of preference.
Though this article is about pre-workout meals, don’t forget to look into post-workout snacks. Post-workout meals are just as important and drastically help your body repair itself. Bottomline, Eat the most healthy foods you can before and after workouts so that your workout efforts are not wasted.