Exercise is essential for improving your gut health. These days, there’s a lot of talk about post-workout drinks and supplements for muscle building and recovery. On the other hand, the importance of pre-workout nutrition doesn’t quite receive the same amount of attention.
Pre-workout nutrition gives your body the blood glucose necessary to power through your workout. It keeps you from feeling tired and provides your muscles the nutrition necessary to heal themselves during the physical exertion.
Let’s break down the basics of pre-workout nutrition. These fundamentals should help you understand how to properly fuel and maximize every training session.
Tips for Pre-Workout Nutrition 101
Before we begin, it’s best to take any nutritional advice with a grain of salt. Wellness is not a one-size-fits-all formula. Many factors influence your pre-workout nutrition.
Your pre-workout meals and supplements depend on:
- Physical Nature of the Exercise
- Your Particular Wellness Goals
- Lifestyle Choices
- Dietary Preferences
- Duration of Your Workout
For advice that is tailor-fit to your needs, it’s best to consult with exercise science experts, especially when you’re just starting out with training. The clear advantage is that training experts have the right research, as they have studied the subject either at degree level or through a certified course.
In fact, most of the discoveries around exercise and health are made and studied at universities. That is why you should check the background of an expert to see if they have had an education at degree level.
Exercise science graduates, who eventually become leading experts in fitness, will have dived deep into nutrition as much as human kinetics, exercise prescription, and other aspects of their field.
That’s because nutrition goes hand-in-hand with exercise. Diet is what ultimately fuels movement and optimal performance. That’s why pre-workout nutrition needs to be understood on a more scientific level.
What You Need for Pre-Workout Nutrition
If for whatever reason you don’t have access to an expert, this guide should help you get started on pre-workout nutrition. First, you need to make sure your plate represents three different food groups.
These are your body’s go-to source of fuel. Carbs are easily converted to energy and are perfect as pre-workout nutrition. These food groups should account for 40% to 60% of your diet .
Some examples of carbohydrate-rich foods include:
- Whole Grains
If you are looking for a quick blast of energy, opt for fruits. They are rich simple sugars that are perfect for HITT Fitness and weight room training. For those going the distance, opt for resistant carbs like starchy vegetables and whole grains.
Protein is known as the building blocks of muscle because it’s rich in amino acids. That’s why protein is best consumed after a workout. It should account for 30-40% of your diet.
Some examples of protein-rich food are:
- Black Beans
If you’re trying to get lean, you should eat lean. Opt for poultry and fish for your post and pre-workout nutrition. There will be a lot less fat to burn off!
Fats are considered as the body’s long-term energy reserves. They’re the most caloric dense. Therefore, fats are also the hardest to burn. They should account for 20-30% of your diet.
Healthy fats for pre-workout nutrition include:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- MCT Oil
The quality of your fats matter for health and weight reasons. Make sure you consume plenty of polyunsaturated and monunsaturated fats instead of saturated fats. Too many saturated fats can cause inflammation in the gut and result in a litany of long-term diseases .
Pre-Workout Nutrition for Body Type
Not all bodies are made equal. We know that at Thryve, which is why we make custom probiotics. Our individuality is what makes nutrition and exercise complicated, but also exciting.
In the world of fitness, body types are divided into these three categories: ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph . Though knowing your body type is often the first step to set training goals, it can also determine your nutritional needs.
Someone who is lanky or lean and has difficulty building muscle is known as an ectomorph. These people have a fast metabolism. Therefore, ectomorphs need to eat nutrient-dense foods before a workout.
Pre-workout nutrition for ectomorphs should include:
- A Handful of Nuts and Seeds
- Protein Shakes (with Spirulina)
- Sweet Potatoes
Since you’re skinnier, you can opt for more fats over carbohydrates. They will sustain you longer. Plus, there are many health benefits to consuming fats, including repairing your gut lining!
Someone who tends to hold on to body fat is an endomorph. Focus on eating whole foods rather than refined and processed ingredients. That’s because endomorphs are often diagnosed with insulin sensitivity, which is what makes them store fat .
Acceptable pre-workout foods for endomorphs include:
- Green Smoothies
- Whole Grains
If you do have an insulin sensitivity, you might want to stay clear of fruit. Otherwise, fruit is an excellent source of quick energy for endomorphs who don’t have diabetes.
Someone who quickly builds and maintains muscle mass is called a mesomorph. Mesomorphs are really lucky because they tend to see results the fastest. If this sounds like you, that’s not an excuse to slack off with your diet!
Like others, you must eat quality food, but you should also consider increasing your caloric intake. That’s because muscle requires more energy to maintain, and low caloric intake can lead to muscle loss.
Pre-Workout Nutrition for Training Style
Pre-workout fuel also varies depending on your chosen form of training. Let’s look at the two most popular styles and how you can prepare your pre-workout nutrition to make the most gains.
If you’re into running, cycling, or other forms of cardio, what you eat before training depends on the intensity of your workout. Some people like to start the day off with a run, usually with an empty stomach.
This is also referred to as fasted cardio, and some studies suggest that it can be effective for fat burning . The body has no available energy to burn, so it turns to fat and carbohydrates instead.
However, fasted cardio is not ideal for longer training sessions. It can lead to a dip in blood sugar, which often manifests as nausea, light-headedness, or muscle shakes. So if you’re going for a long run, aim to consume around 200-300 calories beforehand. One example of this is buckwheat pancakes and fruit. Follow a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and eat at least 30-60 minutes before training.
There’s less proof that fasted training actually works for lifting weights. Researchers note that resistance training without food can inhibit your progress because it risks muscle degradation over time.
If you’re starting a serious weight lifting program, it’s best to power up with the right food. Consider the needs of your particular body type when planning what to eat.
Experts also suggest consuming 30-45 grams each of carbs and protein, with minimal fat. For example, have a protein shake with a banana and some nut butter, or lean protein in a whole wheat wrap. Eat at least 30-90 minutes before a lifting session.
Supplements for Pre-Workout Nutrition
Now, you might be asking where supplements come into play. The truth is, you don’t need protein shakes, BCAAs, and other supplements if you’re following a nutritious diet.
Nutrition experts recommend eating real food because they also contain other essential vitamins and minerals — or micronutrients — that are often lacking in supplements. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little help. This sentiment is especially true if you have difficulty gaining mass, like in the case of ectomorphs.
As mentioned, nutrition is not always straightforward and requires a lot of trial and error. Hopefully, this article helps you experiment and eventually find what works best for your fitness goals.
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