Pre-Workout nutrition has become an essential part of the training process for millions of people worldwide in recent years. For most of them, the very idea of hitting the gym without first downing their favorite brand of pre-workout is enough to throw their whole game plan into a tailspin.
But how essential is pre-workout nutrition in reality?
Let’s get to the hype-free pre-workout nutrition facts.
Why Take a Pre-Workout?
There are two reasons that a person might take a pre-workout for strength training, such as forcus on hiit workout plan. The first is to provide the nutritional armor to fuel the coming workout. The second is to deliver a mental surge that allows the trainer to be more focused and ‘hyped’ for the challenge ahead. Let’s consider that second one first.
In order to help trainers better concentrate and apply themselves mentally during the workout, pre-workouts include such stimulants as caffeine, Alpha-GPC, and ashwagandha. The scientific efficacy of many of these so-called nootropic ingredients is far from established. Beyond the question of whether these compounds actually work, however, there’s this.
If you need an artificial stimulant to help you get psyched for your heavy-weight workout, you don’t want it bad enough! True warriors don’t rely on external props to help them generate the fire in the belly they need to own their workout. They’re able to summon that mental intensity at will because they already have the drive, discipline, and warrior mentality to go to war with whatever challenge awaits them.
What About the Nutritional Benefits?
Your ability to bring it during your workout depends on what you’ve got in the fuel tank.
When the subject of pre-workout nutrition for strength training comes up, most people think of supplements. That’s hardly surprising as the market is flooded with pre-workout powders. Though there is a place for these (we’ll get to that shortly), the basis of your pre-workout nutrition game plan must be real, whole food. After all, the human body was designed to digest complete foods. As a result, it operates at its best when it receives nutrients in this natural state.
Pre-Workout Nutritional Facts
Your key requirement for your training session is energy. That means that you need to be taking in carbohydrates. This will provide glycogen, which the body converts to energy while you are exercising. The body’s supply of glycogen is limited, so you need to be topping them up before your workout.
Of course, there are all sorts of carbs out there, some good and some bad. The type you need prior to your workout should be a combination of fast and slow-digesting carbs. Two hours out from your workout, you should concentrate on slower digesting carbs that will release consistently over a 3 hour period. This will have you going into your workout with elevated glycogen levels and then have a continued release of energy while you are exercising.
Half an hour before your workout, you should have a fast-release carb snack. This will top up your glycogen levels as you go into your exercise session. Fruits like bananas or apples are a smart choice.
You should limit your fat intake, both saturated and unsaturated, ahead of your workout because fat takes much longer to digest than carbs or proteins. When you walk into the gym, the last thing you want is to feel weighed down and sluggish because your gut is digesting fats.
Two Hours Before Your Workout
Your pre-workout nutrition for strength training should begin about 2 hours before your workout. That will give your digestive system enough time to absorb and digest the meal without it interfering with your workout. Two hours is also an ideal time span for the carbs to release and the amino acids to infuse your muscle cells.
The ideal pre-workout meal will consist of 60 percent carbs and 40 percent protein.
Here are three examples of pre-workout meals that will give you that ideal balance:
- Whole grain bread sandwich with sliced chicken breast and a side salad
- Two egg omelets with whole-grain toast and ¼ avocado
- Tuna, brown rice, and roasted vegetables
The size of this meal should be in proportion to the number of calories you plan to burn up during your upcoming workout. If you are about to engage in a weight training session for around an hour, you will expend 400-500 calories. A more cardio or plyo focused workout will churn up a hundred calories. As a result, you should be taking in between 200-250 calories for weight training and 300-350 calories for cardio or plyo workouts.
30 Minutes Before Your Workout
A half-hour before your exercise session begins, you should have a high-carb snack. Here are a half dozen that will provide a quick energy release to ensure that you’re revving on all cylinders when you walk into the gym.
- Fruit Smoothie
My personal favorite is a Red Delicious Apple. An apple is refreshing, tasty, and quick to digest, but it also contains polyphenols, which have been shown to boost strength and endurance during exercise.
What About Supplements?
Should you take a pre-workout supplement before your exercise session?
Not if you are able to get the two meals that I’ve outlined above. They will provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to fuel you through your exercise session. However, there may be times when you cannot sit down to a meal two hours before your workout or grab a piece of fruit 30 minutes ahead of your session. A pre-workout supplement can provide you with a good alternative on those occasions.
An obvious example of not being able to get in your pre-workout meal is when you are working out early in the morning. If your workout begins at 7 am, you probably don’t want to be getting up at 5 to eat a meal. But you can have a tasty pre-workout drink at 6:30. It won’t be ideal as you won’t have time for slow or medium-release carbs to kick in time for the workout. But it will still provide fast-release carbs and proteins to power you through the workout. The nutrients are already broken down and often pre-digested, which will get them into your system faster.
Your pre-workout should contain a similar carb-protein ratio as you would normally have in your 2 hours out the meal.
When it comes to selecting your pre-workout, here are some buying tips that you may find helpful:
- Check the ingredients first, with an eye out for Vitamin B6, Caffeine, Beta-Alanine, Citrulline Malate, Sodium Bicarbonate, and Bitter Orange
- Look at dosages next – don’t choose a product with more than 300 mg of caffeine per dose (200 mg is about ideal)
- Taste is important – if you don’t like it, you won’t take it!
- Use whole foods over supplements.
- Take a 60/40 carb/protein ratio meal 2 hours ahead of the workout
- Eat a fast-acting carb snack 30 minutes before the workout
- Use a pre-workout supplement if you cannot have whole foods