Pre-Workout Fuel: Why You Need It and How to Choose the Right Foods

Maximize your exercise sessions with the right pre-workout fuel!

Pre-Workout Fuel Why You Need It and How to Choose the Right Foods

Eating before exercise fuels your body so you can train at your BEST. It’s a great way to keep your muscles healthy while focusing on burning fat, building strength and endurance.

However, don’t just eat any type of pre-workout snack! There’s a proper way to take your pre-workout fuel to achieve your fitness goals. To help you out, check out our guide to learn more!

Why Pre-Workout Fuel is Important

Why Pre-Workout Fuel Is Important - man eating saladEating pre-workout food is recommended by fitness experts to help maximize fat-burning and prevent exercise injuries.

Many people do ‘fasted cardio,’ which is a good exercise strategy to burn fat. However, doing fasted cardio is only effective early in the morning or after fasting for several hours. Unless your body is in a fasted state, you should get pre-workout food to energize your body.

Here are three important benefits of consuming the right pre-workout fuel:

  1. Boosts Your Physical Energy – Our body’s first source of fuel is glycogen, which is stored carbohydrates that become glucose. Glucose is the primary energy source that fuels our body. This is why it’s important to fill up your glycogen stores before exercise. With pre-workout fuel, you’re giving your body the boost of energy it needs to perform at its peak.
  2. Prevents Breakdown of Muscle Tissue – Eating before a workout prevents muscle catabolism, which is the breaking down of muscle tissue. When our body’s glycogen stores are used up, it looks for another energy source—our muscles. Pre-workout food prevents muscle damage and helps it recover better after rigorous exercise.
  3. Why Pre-Workout Fuel Is Important - man exercisingEnhances Muscle Strength and Growth – Choosing pre-workout foods high in protein actually promotes muscle anabolism, a complex process which helps increase lean muscle mass. This basically builds your muscles and helps make them stronger.

How to Choose the Right Pre-Workout Fuel

When it comes to choosing healthy pre-workout meals, you need to take note of three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Depending on your exercise routine, it’s  important to know how much of each macronutrient you are consuming.

  1. Carbohydrates – Carbs basically help fill up your glycogen stores for intense workouts. There two types of carbs: simple, high glycemic carbohydrates and complex, low glycemic carbohydrates. Make sure to choose slow-digesting complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and fruits. Take note: be careful NOT to consume too much carbs. Too much carbs can give you stomach cramps while working out. It’s also important to allot enough time for digestion. As a rule, it’s safe to eat 20 to 40 grams of carbohydrates at least 2 hours before exercise. Simple and complex carbs have different effects on your body:

How to Choose the Right Pre-workout Food

  • Simple, High Glycemic Carbs – Provides easily absorbed fast-acting glucose for energy. Since it metabolizes fast, simple carbs can give you a sugar crash or low blood sugar while you exercise, making you feel weak. It’s not recommended for prolonged workouts.
  • Complex, Low Glycemic Carbs – Supplies the body with a slow and steady release of energy. It allows you to workout longer, sustaining your energy for longer periods of time. Moreover, it keeps blood sugar levels at a normal level while you perform rigorous exercise. This is why fitness experts often recommend moderate to low-glycemic carb sources before doing workouts.

    2.  How to Choose the Right Pre-workout FoodProtein – Eating a good source of protein before exercise provides muscles with essential amino acids that prevents tissue breakdown. It boosts muscle recovery and growth, making your body leaner and stronger. Make sure to get fresh and lean protein from organic sources. Fitness experts commonly recommend eating 20 to 40 grams of protein at least 2 hours before a workout.

   3. Fats – When it comes to pre-workout food, the general rule is to avoid eating very fatty meats and oils. Though fat is a good source of energy, the body can only digest it very slowly. This slow absorption can actually hinder your performance. Eating fatty foods before exercise will make you feel heavy and sluggish, keeping you from having a productive workout.

When to Eat Your Pre-Workout Fuel

When to Eat Your Pre-Workout Fuel - clock plateYou should eat your pre-workout fuel at least 2 to 3 hours before exercise. It’s great if you can get a full meal with a good source of complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates and lean protein that’s 400 to 500 calories. Make sure to get lean meat and healthy carb sources like veggies and fruits.

A good example of a complete pre-workout meal is chicken with veggies and sweet potatoes as well as a lettuce wrap with turkey, fresh tomatoes and avocados.

When to Eat Your Pre-Workout Fuel - chicken taco wrapHowever, if you can’t get a pre-workout meal 2 to 3 hours before a work out, you can still eat nutritious foods. Just take note that you need to eat smaller, more simpler meals if you only have 40 minutes to 1 hour before exercise. This will keep your stomach from getting cramps during your workout.

Here are great examples of pre-workout foods you can eat:

1. Bananas 

Eating a banana before exercise can fuel your body for long periods. It has potassium for muscle control, electrolyte balance and nerve function. It’s considered a healthy source of carbohydrates that provide extra energy for swimmers, runners and weight lifters.

Great Pre-Workout Food - veggie omelette2. Veggie Omelettes

Eggs are an excellent source of protein for increased muscle strength and growth. Spice up your usual omelette adding good carbs. Eat more tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, red bell peppers, and onions. You can even put avocado slices to add more protein on your eggs.

3. Organic Greek Yogurt with Berries

This is a great pre-workout snack if you have less than an hour before exercise. Greek yogurt contains twice as much protein as regular yogurt and is not as sweet with fewer calories. Mix it with fresh berries like blackberries or blueberries to add healthy carbs.

4. Organic Cottage Cheese with Fruits

Cottage cheese has less lactose and is rich in protein. It’s a good pre-workout food you can eat if you have less than an hour before exercise. Just top it with low glycemic fruits like berries, pears, grapefruit, or plums to give you that extra energy boost.

5. Sweet Potatoes

Great Pre-Workout Food - sweet potatoesSweet potatoes are a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates. They’re also rich in fiber that promote healthy digestion and keep you feeling full. Since it’s a low-glycemic food, bodybuilders are known to consume it to keep them energized while doing rigorous workouts. Easy to prepare, just steam, grill or stir fry sweet potatoes on a skillet.

The Bottom Line

Apart from healthy pre-workout meals, it’s also important to hydrate and drink enough water before, during and after doing high-intensity workouts.

Just take note of these tips on pre-workout foods to maximize the benefits of your exercise. Remember, you’re more likely to get active if you feel healthy and energized. When you nourish your body with the right foods, you’ll feel better inside and out.

What pre-workout foods do you enjoy eating?
Tell us about it in the comments below!

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