Determined to get fit this year? Start with great pre-workout nutrition.
If you’re determined that this year is your year for achieving your fitness goals, good for you! We know you’ll get there. However, don’t forget one significant thing – pre-workout nutrition. Get it wrong, and you could find yourself tiring easily or not able to finish; get it right, and you could be smashing through PBs daily (not quite, but you know what we mean).
Basically, proper nutrition helps the body to perform better. Optimize your intake, and you’ll maximize performance and minimize damage. Everything – yes, even carbs – has a role to play.
What to Eat
Eating protein before working out increases your muscles’ ability to keep going and helps them repair. A diet that’s rich in protein can also help with muscle growth and recovery, increased strength, leaner body mass, and improved muscle performance. Get your pre-workout protein with a handful of nuts, such as pistachios or cashews.
Even the dreaded carbs are essential to eat before a workout, as your muscles use the sugars contained in carbohydrate-heavy foods for fuel. Your muscles store these sugars as glycogen. When glycogen gets low, your ability to exercise at high intensity is reduced. Carbs are especially useful for short and high-intensity workouts. Some people also ‘carb load’ before a big event such as a race or competition. This involves eating a high-carb diet for up to a week to maximize glycogen stores.
Carbs may be the MVP for short, intense workouts, but for longer and lower-intensity days, fat is the king of pre-workout nutrition. Fats are burned more slowly than sugars, increasing your endurance and enabling you to keep going at a lower intensity for longer.
When to Eat
Getting the timing right is essential when thinking about exercise nutrition. For maximum benefit, try eating a complete meal (protein, fat, and carbs) 2-3 hours before you head to the gym. If you can’t get in a full meal, try and eat a balanced snack or smaller meal. However, remember that if you’re eating really close to your workout, keep it small and simple, or you may feel a bit uncomfortable.
Supplements can also help give you an exercise boost and can enhance performance and increase strength. The most common is probably creatine, which can delay fatigue and help improve muscle strength and power. Taking it beforehand is great, but it’s even better after a workout.
Caffeine is also a great pre-workout supplement as it increases power, reduces fatigue, and speeds up the burning of fat. Drink it in coffee or an energy drink, or take it in pill form – it doesn’t matter. Ninety minutes before a workout is the optimal time.
As well as nutrition, the body needs hydration to function properly. Proper hydration is key to sustaining your performance, keeping you going even if things are getting seriously sweaty. Most experts recommend a drink that contains both water and sodium to improve fluid balance and help retain fluids.
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