“What should I eat before a workout?” What’re the best foods to eat before going to the gym or going for a run?
Your body needs fuel, right?
So what should you eat beforehand?
There is one advice that is commonly being shared and religiously followed: “Before training, you should eat proteins and carbs immediately so that you will be able to build muscles fast.”
However, with numerous studies having been conducted on pre-workout nutrition, it is found that timing your consumption of proteins and carbs is not really that important as was originally believed.
Understanding Pre-Workout Nutrition
If you want to understand how pre-workout nutrition works, let us do a quick review of the role of protein in muscle building.
Our body undergoes an unending process known as PROTEIN TURNOVER, wherein muscle proteins are being broken down when you are active and are repaired and rebuilt when you are at rest. This applies to your regular, normal activity.
A different thing happens when you exercise.
When you go through resistance training and cardio exercises, research has demonstrated that there is an increase in the rate of protein breakdown and synthesis immediately after your workout. BUT, with time, the rate of protein breakdown exceeds that of protein synthesis. This simply means that exercise is catabolic, and this occurs more often with longer workouts and fasted training.
This proves the saying “Muscle building does not take place in the gym.”
Instead, it is when you exercise that you break down muscle tissue and it is while you are at rest between workouts or asleep at night that repair and recovery of existing muscles and growth of new muscle tissues take place.
What does this mean? How does this answer my question “What should I eat before a workout?”
If you want to achieve muscle growth, you should ensure that your protein synthesis rates should exceed your protein breakdown rates over prolonged periods of time. This condition of the body is called the anabolic state. Keeping the body in a prolonged anabolic state will enable you to gain muscle fast.
So, just how can you keep your body in an anabolic state? This is where pre-workout nutrition comes in. You need to eat enough proteins and calories before your workout, and employ certain strategies that will speed up muscle recovery.
Let’s get into the specifics of pre-workout nutrition, shall we? This way you won’t be wondering “what should I eat before a workout?” anymore.
Proteins As A Part of Pre-Workout Nutrition
Since we talked about protein turnover earlier, you can already conclude that protein is a vital part of pre-workout nutrition.
But, just how important is it?
First of all, what does pre-workout protein do?
- It increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis while suppressing the rate of muscle breakdown.
- The breakdown of protein provides your body with amino acids, the raw materials needed to build muscles.
For pre-workout protein to function as it should, it is important that you eat 30 to 40 grams of protein three to four hours before you exercise. As a whole, your daily intake of protein should be 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight, divided into four to six servings at three to four hour intervals.
Having this timed protein meal plan will enable you to build muscle and strength fast. In addition, research has shown that eating protein in moderate amounts at three to four-hour intervals is more effective at building muscle compared to eating smaller, more frequent amounts or larger, less frequent amounts of protein.
While many studies have shown that a timed protein meal plan combined with resistance training can increase protein synthesis rates, it is important that you should consider pre-workout protein within the context of your diet in its entirety.
Let me explain this further.
Obviously, not everyone will be able to eat proteins at a strict three to four-hour interval. Some just can’t handle eating that much protein. Others find it difficult because of a busy schedule.
If you are not able to eat protein 3-4 hours before your workout, the protein synthesis rates of your body drop to its baseline level. Much like a car, your body’s muscle building function will be in idle mode until the next time you eat protein again.
To keep your protein synthesis rates elevated all throughout your day, you should eat a serving of protein immediately after you hit your baseline. Since protein synthesis rates also drop while you sleep, you should also eat protein before hitting your bed to keep those rates high.
Putting it simply, you must not keep your body’s muscle building function in idle mode because you will be wasting time that should be spent repairing and building new muscle tissues.
Worse, if you don’t eat after your workout, pretty soon, the rate of muscle breakdown will exceed protein synthesis. Rather than build muscle, you experience MUSCLE LOSS!
Again, before you start training, you need to eat protein if you haven’t eaten any in the last few hours. If you are one of those who are presently under fasted training, research studies have conclusively shown that eating protein after a fast will give your greater muscle growth.
Just one last thing!
You don’t need to eat protein immediately before training if you have done so 1-2 hours before your workout. Research has found that eating more protein immediately before a workout will not induce greater muscle growth. You still have the essential amino acids and insulin in your blood from the proteins you have eaten earlier.
The Role of Carbs In Pre-Workout Nutrition
There are still some people who say that carbohydrates are not important in muscle building.
You NEED carbs because it helps improve your overall performance when you exercise.
So what should I eat before a workout? Just what role do carbs play in pre-workout nutrition?
When you eat carbs before training, you provide your body with glucose, which is burned off for energy. Let’s enumerate why glucose is important…
If you eat a lot of carbs before a workout, you give your muscles more glucose to burn so that you are not only able to exercise longer, you’ll see a big improvement in your performance and endurance (especially in longer workouts).
With high blood glucose levels, your muscle’s glycogen stores will be preserved. Glycogen is the body’s main source of energy in resistance training. If your blood glucose levels are low, your body starts to burn off glycogen. This reduces your exercise performance.
High levels of muscle glycogen have been found to improve cellular signalling in muscle building.
As you can see, while eating carbs before training will not promote more muscle growth, it will provide you with the energy needed to exercise harder, so that you gain both muscle and strength faster.
It is recommended that you eat 30 to 40 grams of carbs 15 minutes to one hour before a workout. Great sources of carbs include oatmeal, fruit, melons, dates, figs, white rice, sweet, potatoes, and raisins.
A recent study that showed that swishing your mouth with a drink rich in carbs before exercising can improve workout performance. Scientists suspect that the mouth contains receptors, which detect the amount of available energy that you have. The carbs in the drink are immediately detected by the receptors. They signal the brain that energy is on hand. Believing that there is more energy, the brain enables the body to do more rigorous workouts.
This “energizing” effect though lasts only for an hour. After this period, the brain regulates the body’s physical activity based on the remaining glycogen in the muscles and your level of fatigue.
Nevertheless, it is important that you eat carbs to improve your overall performance, so that you will be able to build muscles faster.
A Very Brief Word on Fats
While you can eat fats as part of your pre-workout nutrition, it is not really necessary.
In fact, studies have shown that fats have no demonstrable benefits on exercise performance.
Pre-Workout Nutrition In Conclusion
If you want to build muscle and body strength faster, pre-workout nutrition through nutrient timing and religiously following a meal plan is very important.
You can do this by eating proteins 3-4 hours and carbs 15 minutes-1 hour before a workout and at 3-4 hour intervals throughout your day.
If you haven’t eaten before your workout, eat immediately after you finish exercising.
Last but not least, make sure that you get your calories/energy from nutritious sources.
Now that you know the answer to “What should I eat before a workout?” It’s time to follow and put into practice what you’ve just read!