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What to Eat Before Workout to Make the Most of It

NEWS STORY
07/04/2021

Even though post-workout nutrition windows have long since been debunked, being mindful of what you eat around your training sessions is still vitally important if you want to make the most of your workouts.

This is especially true of pre-workout nutrition.

While some people prefer to work out on an empty stomach, we're going to focus on what to eat before you train for those who like to get a little fuel in their bodies before hitting the gym.

There is no 'one size fits all' approach to pre-exercise food consumption, either individually or for various exercise groups.

Listed below are some guidelines on what to eat before a workout.

Why Should You Eat Before Working Out?

When you exercise, be it weight training through progressive overload, HIIT, or endurance training on bikes or on foot, muscle-protein breakdown will increase. It's in your best interest to keep protein breakdown rates as low as possible while simultaneously increasing protein synthesis rates.

Eating the right food before working out is one of the surefire ways to prevent lean muscle mass breakdown. However, opinions are divided as to whether consuming pre-workout protein has any benefit towards muscle growth.

As long as you've consumed enough protein within 3 to 4 hours before your session, you should be good to go.

However, pre-workout carbs are critical to ensure you have enough energy for optimal performance while helping to postpone fatigue.

So, what should you eat before exercising? Let's look at different methods of training and the best foods to consume.

Resistance Training & HIIT

If you're looking to build some muscle, be it through heavy barbell work, weight machines, or using a pull up band, a shorter workout with high intensity is the best method. For that, you'll need foods that contain high glycemic carbs.

High glycemic carbs are fast burning and provide fuel to your muscles quickly and efficiently. Listed below are some of the best high glycemic foods.

• White Bread
• White Rice
• Potatoes / Fries
• Bagels
• White Pasta
• Pineapple
• Cakes / Donuts (If you're on a dirty bulk)

Aim to eat one of these sources of high glycemic carbs and a lean source of protein (such as chicken, turkey, or fish) approximately three hours before your exercise. However, it won't matter much if you eat between one and four hours before a session.

Long Distance Running or Cycling

When performing endurance training, you'll need a more continuous source of energy to keep you fuelled throughout the long workout. In this instance, foods that are low on the glycemic carbs index are optimal.

The slow-digesting foods listed below will drip-feed your body with energy as it needs it for the coming hours to make sure you don't fatigue too early.

• Brown Rice
• Rolled Oats with Berries
• Wholewheat Bread
• Apples
• Bananas
• All-Bran
• Wholewheat Pasta
• Peanut Butter / Peanuts
• Whole Grain Bagel
• Vegetables

For optimal performance aim to eat approximately one to two hours before your endurance training. If you have consumed an adequate amount of protein up to four hours before you run or cycle, no additional protein is need. Though if you're training early in the day, a protein shake could be beneficial.

Swimming

Swimming is a full-body workout that requires a ton of energy. Whether you're swimming fast lengths or training for an endurance event, you'll need plenty of fuel before getting in the water.

While eating foods from the high glycemic index for short, explosive swimming sessions is OK; it's probably wise to throw some complex carbs into your pre-workout meal, as even short swimming sessions still require sustained periods of exertion.

Some of the favorite pre-swim foods from Swimming World are listed below.

• Whole Grain Bagels with Peanut Butter
• Low Fat Fruit Smoothies
• Bananas
• Energy Gels

Allow approximately two to four hours for a large meal to digest before swimming. While allowing 30 to 60 minutes for a pre workout snack.

What Not To Eat

Nothing will hinder a workout more than the discomfort in your stomach caused by overeating, eating too close to your training session, or eating the wrong sorts of food.

Every rep, step, or stroke, will make you feel like you want to throw up, or worse (we're looking at you, Paula Radcliffe) if your pre workout meal contains the wrong sorts of foods.

Steer clear of high-fat food (or fast food), energy drinks and soda, beans, cruciferous vegetables, spicy food, and of course, alcohol. Avoid these foods and beverages, and your digestive system (and anyone standing close to you) will thank you.

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