A good pre-workout meal is important for quite a few reasons. That meal you take in about three hours before your workout will provide you the energy you need and also helps with muscle growth. During workouts muscle breakdown can occur if you are missing important energy to burn. Also amino acids consumed prior to workouts will then be in the bloodstream to help with protein synthesis during the workout.
So obviously you want to have the proper fuel in your body! But ideally what should you be taking in?
While fats take a long time to digest, protein and carbs don’t. Typically carbs only take about two to three hours to get past the initial stage of digestion. Protein takes a little longer at three to four hours. So based on this your ideal meal will be completed three hours before you start your workout.
What is Included
Fats are rather worthless for a pre-workout meal. They take so long to digest (six plus hours) that consuming them just gets in the way so avoid fats and oils. Protein is a needed nutrient as noted earlier. Preferably you want lean meat or dairy for protein at this stage. Carbohydrates are going to fill up your glycogen stores to then be released continuously during the workout phase for constant energy. The biggest key is to not go overboard with too many carbohydrates.
Ideally you should aim for a meal that is about 500 to 700 calories comprised of 30-40% protein and the rest carbohydrates. You also want plenty of fluids to ensure maximum hydration of your body when you get started.
Last of all come the actual meals. Like most people, you are probably pretty busy. So you need things you can prepare quickly that still provide all of the blocks you need to build your body.
- Turkey Wrap or Turkey Sandwich and Fresh Veggies – This is a favorite for me when I do afternoon workouts. You get base protein from lean turkey and then just add additional veggies such as carrots to meet your calorie needs.
- Grilled Chicken and Veggies – 6 to 8 ounces of grilled chicken go great with a side of grilled asparagus or other assorted grilled veggies.
- Chicken or Salmon Salad – A nicely tossed green salad with either chicken or salmon for protein can provide you plenty of energy. Go light on the dressing due to fat content.
- Oatmeal and Eggs Whites – This is more of a breakfast style meal. 3 Egg whites can be scrambled up with some low fat cheese and add a side of oatmeal for instant energy.
- Fruit, Yogurt, and Protein Powder – Mix a scoop or two of soy protein powder in with plain yogurt and fruit such as strawberries or bananas for a power packed meal.
These are 5 simple ideas to get the ball rolling. There are plenty of other ways to mix and match meals as well such as incorporating a protein shake in with a number of high energy carb sides. The bottom line is getting a good mix of quality foods into your body at the right time to ensure peak performance and recovery.