Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always looking for ways to make their bodies work better and do it faster. Nutrition is an important part of that. It makes your body work better because it gives good protein, vitamins, minerals and carbs. And it helps you recover after a workout because your muscles need food to be stronger again. So eat well before a workout so you can do the best possible job.
What is Important to Eat
Before you exercise, it is best to fuel your body with the right nutrients. Protein is good for energy and strength. Fat will make you feel fuller and help your body absorb those nutrients better. Carbohydrates provide quick energy if needed, but they don’t have as much protein or fat in them. You need to consume these three macronutrients in a certain way, depending on the type of exercise that you are doing.
When your muscles need fuel, they use glucose from carbs. Your muscles store glycogen in the liver and the muscles. When you have a short or high-intensity workout, your glycogen stores are the main energy source for your muscle(1). But when you have a long exercise, how much energy comes from carbs depends on several factors like intensity and type of training and what you eat overall(2).
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Your muscles have limited stores of glycogen. As this starts to run out and your output and intensity go down, you need to eat more carbs. Studies have shown that a high-carb diet can increase the glycogen in your body and make you better at using carbs during exercise. Carbo-loading is a well-known way of eating lots of carbohydrates for 1–7 days before an event.
Protein can help people before they exercise. It is important to eat protein before you exercise. Eating protein and carbs together will give your body more energy for the activity. One study showed that when 20 grams of whey protein were eaten, people got an anabolic response that helped their muscles grow stronger and faster(3).
Eating protein before exercise is good. It includes:
- Better muscle growth
- Improved muscle recovery
- Increased strength and lean body mass
- Increased muscle performance
Your body uses glycogen for shorter and faster exercises(4). But after a long time, or when you are not exercising that hard, your body will burn fat. Some studies have shown that people who eat a diet with more fat can run better than healthier eating people. For example, one study showed how over four weeks, healthy athletes could run fast for longer times when they ate 40% fat instead of 20%.
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Timing For Your Pre-Workout Meal
It is important to eat before exercising. Eating the right meal can help you work out better. Eat a meal with carbs, protein and fat 2-3 hours before your workout so that you can get the most out of it. But there are some times when you won’t be able to eat in two hours, so don’t worry about eating anything small or simple just before working out if it’s been less than two hours since your last meal.
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If you have to eat something before 30-45 min you work out, make sure that the food is easy to digest and contains mostly carbs and protein. This will help your stomach during exercise.
Few Pre-Workout Meals to Start With
What to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of a workout. A good rule is to have carbs and protein before exercising. Eat fat at least 2 hours before exercising, or it won’t work very well.
If your workout starts more than 2 hours from now:
- Have a sandwich made of whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad.
- If you are hungry again before your workout, eat some eggs with toast and avocado spread on top to get some extra energy for the workout.
- You could also eat rice with vegetables that have been roasted in olive oil
If your workout starts within 2 hours from now:
- A protein shake with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries.
- Whole-grain cereal and milk.
- Oatmeal with a banana on top of it.
- A sandwich made out of whole-grain bread, almond butter and fruit preserve.
If your workout starts within an hour or less:
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- A protein bar, such as a granola bar
- A piece of fruit, such as an apple or orange
Do not eat many pre-workout meals. Only one is enough, and it should be eaten an hour or two before you work out.
Hydration is Also Important
You need water to function. Drinking plenty of water has been shown to help people perform better and be healthy. Drink water before you work out or do anything strenuous.
Drink about 16-20 ounces (0.5-0.6 litres) of water at least four hours before working out and 8-12 ounces (0.23-0.35 litres) of water 10-15 minutes before working out if possible.
You should also drink something with sodium in it when you work out, like Gatorade or Powerade, because that will help your body hold onto the fluids better during exercise and after exercising too!
To have a good workout, it is important to eat the right foods before you exercise. Carbohydrates help your body use sugar to give you energy for short- and high-intensity workouts.
Protein helps build muscles, prevents muscle damage, and helps recovery.
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Good hydration is also important for your performance. It can make you feel better. It would help if you drank lots of water before and after a workout.
Pre-workout meals should be eaten three hours to 30 minutes before a workout. Eat easy-to-digest foods or foods that are not hard to digest if you are going to exercise soon.
Supplements can help your performance and recovery too, but they are not necessary.