What to Eat Before A Workout: A Complete Pre-workout Meal Guide For You

Nikhil Goswami

Achieving your ideal body may seem tricky, but discipline and regular exercise can help you reach your goals quickly. However, you also need to pair these workouts with proper pre and post-workout nutrition. Beginners often focus only on exercising and don’t improve their diet. The right foods can improve your athletic performance and help you get lean body mass. You can also try muscle-building supplements 

That said, choosing these foods can be a little tricky. You must consider many factors before fixing a meal for the workout. For example, the meal may vary due to nutritional needs, body type, or timing. This article contains everything you need to know about a pre-workout meal, various nutrients, their functions, and how to use them to plan the perfect diet.

What Makes Up A Balanced Diet?

The most important thing about a healthy meal is that it should be perfectly balanced. A proper diet consists of the three core food groups: carbs, protein, and fats.

An ideal meal would consist of 30% carbs, 15-20% protein, 10% fats and sugar, and 40-50% fruits and vegetables. However, you do not need to split each food group into individual items. Some foods like granola bars also contain all three core nutrients. Moreover, it is vital to intake food in these proportions, but you can also balance it out over the week. So, you can take extra fats on one day and have some more protein on the next.

Each core nutrient plays a different role in your body. Here are some details about the components of a healthy diet.

Carbohydrates: Energy Source

Carbs are the first of the three macronutrients and your main energy source. Moreover, they also assist in keeping your heart, kidneys, and central nervous system functioning. There are three forms of carbs: sugar, fiber, and starches.

Usually, carbs contain nearly four calories per gram. So, the average adult should intake 200 to 300 grams of carbs every day. Experts recommend men and women consume 3,000 and 2,000 calories daily, respectively. However, these numbers may vary depending on your specific condition. For example, the National Library of Medicine states that pregnant women should include 45-60% carbs in their diet. Similarly, your blood sugar and weight can be other deciding factors for your carb intake.

Although carbs are an essential part of your diet, it is vital to eat them moderately. Excess carbs can result in unhealthy weight gain and high blood sugar. Plus, since fibers are mainly responsible for keeping your digestive system in check, a lack of them could also cause constipation.

Carb Breakdown

Your saliva contains two vital enzymes, amylase and lipase. These enzymes break down the carbs that enter your body. The process differs for each form of carb. Simple carbs, or sugar, are easier for the body to digest, whereas complex carbs, or starch, require more attention. However, unlike simple and complex carbohydrates, your body does not break down fibers. Dietary fibers directly pass through your digestive tract while staying intact.

Your body converts simple and complex carbohydrates into glucose and uses them as energy sources. While simple carbs contain only one or two sugar molecules, complex carbohydrates may have over three. Sugar directly enters your bloodstream after quick digestion. 

Hence, you may often feel an instant rush after consuming any form of simple carbs. These simple sugars are your daily energy source. Similarly, your body stores starch and extra sugar in muscles or your liver after digestion. So, when you do not have enough carbs in your diet, your body uses them to maintain blood glucose levels.

Dietary fibers can also assist your digestion and healthy excretion. So, a high-fiber diet can prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Moreover, soluble fibers can also keep your cholesterol in check. 

Foods Rich in Carbs

Many foods and beverages are rich in carbs. However, most of these items may not contain a healthy balance of all three carbs. Most refined products, like flour or white rice, remove nutrients and fibers from carbs, leaving you only calories. Fibers are heavier and cause you to feel full after eating. So, if your food contains little to no dietary fibers, you may overeat and gain more weight.

So, consuming carbs from natural sources like beans, potatoes, or corn is advisable. Nuts and dry fruits are also very rich in healthy carbs.

Protein: Growth and Healing

The second vital nutrient plays several critical functions in the body. Proteins consist of hundreds of units of amino acids. Moreover, these amino acids link together to form chains and create different patterns unique to each protein. There are nearly 500 amino acids worldwide, but only 20 common amino acids make up protein for the human body. Every protein cell in our body serves a specific purpose. For example, messenger proteins in hormones, like the growth hormone, transmit various signals to perform bodily functions.

Your protein requirements differ during different stages of your life. Since proteins promote body growth, they are vital during rapid growth. Hence, consuming more protein during childhood, pregnancy, or breastfeeding is necessary.

Protein Breakdown

Once the protein reaches your stomach, the pepsin enzyme and hydrochloric acid begin breaking it down. Generally, proteins take longer to digest than carbs but are still quicker than digesting fats. After the gastric juices break these proteins down, they move to the small intestine for further digestion. 

Next, the pancreas releases more enzymes that convert proteins into amino acids and dipeptides. Further, these essential amino acids move to your bloodstream and liver. The liver then sends the acids to various cells in your body.

After reaching your cells, these amino acids make several new proteins to facilitate different body functions. These functions include tissue growth, structuring, muscle protein synthesis, etc. One of the most important functions of protein includes cell repairing. Protein intake is especially helpful for exercising since it can facilitate muscle recovery.

Foods Rich in Protein

Animal sources are usually rich in proteins. For example, lean meats like beef and veal or poultry like turkey and chicken can be high protein sources. Seafood like fish and oysters usually contain the highest amounts of protein. Although, if you are looking for a protein source for your daily diet, eggs would be most advisable.

It is a popular belief that vegetarian or vegan foods do not contain enough proteins to fulfill our needs. While several plant-based foods contain all 20 amino acids, some of them may have insufficient amounts. So, if you follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, it is vital to consume food items that are complementary to one another. You can make up for the lack of specific amino acids in one food item by eating one rich in them. A good combination would be rice and beans.

Plant and dairy items rich in protein include legumes, milk, seeds, nuts, etc.

Fat: Building Blocks

Fats, the third vital core nutrition, are essential for body growth. These nutrients are the main components of your body’s composition. So, everything from your skin membrane that protects organs to your brain contains essential fats. Additionally, fats also facilitate the functions of several hormones like estrogen.

While people commonly use the word “fat” to describe all the fats in your body, there are multiple types of fats. These can be either good or bad for your health. So, consuming moderate fat and being selective about what fat you intake is vital. If you do not regulate your fat consumption, it could lead to severe diseases. For example, some unhealthy fats could affect your metabolism and lead to various heart diseases and type-2 diabetes.

Your system stores fats and saves them as energy for later use. Similarly, the carbs and proteins that are not used are converted into these fats and stored as energy. Usually, fats are saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The latter two types of fats contain essential fatty acids and are healthy for you. Moreover, they can reduce the risk of heart disease by balancing your cholesterol levels. While monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, polyunsaturated and trans fats are solid.

Fat Breakdown

Experts classify fat into three main types: white fat, brown fat, and essential fat. White and brown fats are highly contrasting functions. Firstly, white fats are high in calories and act as a fuel source for your body. These fats are generally in your shoulders, thighs, and hips. 

Secondly, brown fat, or brown adipose tissue, is responsible for burning calories and producing heat. This fat is more common in infants and children. However, adults store some brown fat in their neck and shoulder region. Brown adipose consists mainly of mitochondria. These mitochondria use extra calories and turn them into energy to produce heat. 

Lastly, essential fat, as the name suggests, is essential for you to function. All of your brain, skin membrane, bone marrow, and nerves contain essential fat.

Other forms of fat include visceral and subcutaneous fats. These fats lie under your skin and protect your organs and muscles. However, excess fats could cause a risk of strokes, obesity, or artery diseases. Fat can also facilitate vitamin absorption, hormone regulation for fertility, and temperature maintenance.

Foods Rich in Fats

People generally avoid dietary fats due to their various health risks and weight gain. However, if you are selective and more aware of the foods you consume, you can intake several healthy fats and avoid weight gain. Moreover, the lack of fats in your system could cause weakness and hair loss.

Some healthy sources of fats are avocados. While most fruits are rich in carbs, avocados are full of healthy fats. Dairy products like cheese and butter also contain fats. Another rich source of fat is a whole egg. The albumen of an egg is rich in protein, but its yolk contains fat and healthy cholesterol.

Time Your Meals Correctly

After you understand what your meals should consist of, you must consider how to time your meal correctly. Eating a full meal with all essential food groups at least a couple of hours before exercising is best. Specifically, the ideal period to consume and pre-workout nutrition is three hours to thirty minutes before your workout.

Just keep in mind that the smaller the gap between the meal and exercising, the simpler the food should be. So, a snack is preferable over a full meal if it is a half-hour before working out. You should also lower the fats and fibers you eat. This would prevent you from feeling too full before your workout.

Some Ideas for a Nutritious Meal

Finding the correct combination of foods and beverages for your pre-workout meal could be difficult. It could also vary depending on various factors. Your body may require more nutrients for specific purposes, or the quantity may differ due to your workout timing. So, we prepared a list of meals and snacks you can take before working out.

For Specific Goals

Weight Loss

  • One of the best foods for weight loss is low-fat milk and fruits. You can avoid fats and gain all proteins from low-fat milk. Moreover, rich in carbs, fruits will give you immense strength for your workout and compensate for lost energy.
  • Oatmeal is the classic pre-workout snack. You can pair it with dried fruits like raisins, which are rich in proteins and carbs, for an extra boost.

Muscle Mass

  • Chicken and yams with rice is a complete pre-workout meal. As a n bonus, it is also delicious and also contains all three food groups. This high-protein diet will increase muscle protein synthesis, giving you a fuller look.
  • Greek yogurt with berries is a tasty source of protein. This nutritious meal helps you build muscle mass due to the high-protein content in greek yogurt. Moreover, you can take this light snack any time before working.

For Specific Timings

  • You may not have the time to grab a bite a few hours before your workout. In such cases, you can have a light snack like half a banana or granola bar. These foods contain easy-to-digest carbs and proteins with little to no fats. So, you should not have any trouble working out after a short period. Another light snack is a few apple slices with almond butter.
  • You can opt for heavier food options if you have a couple of hours before your workout starts. For example, the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a popular pre-workout snack. It is easy to prepare and helps you build muscle.
  • Lastly, if you have three hours until your workout, you can select more complex food items. Eggs are heavier to digest than most foods but are rich in proteins. You can prepare a complete meal, an omelet and a side of whole-grain toast with avocado slices.

Vegan Pre-workout Nutrition

  • Vegan food also can make up tasty and filling snacks. Oatmeal with fruit or chia seeds can make a great pre-workout meal with zero meat and dairy. Moreover, the complex carbs in oats and proteins in chia seeds perfectly complement one another.
  • You can also bake some sweet potato slices and serve them with whole-grain bread topped with nut butter. This meal is high in starch and lean protein with moderate fats.

Dietary Supplements For Extra Nutrition

You can maximize the benefits of your workouts even further by pairing a healthy meal with dietary supplements. Athletes commonly use them as part of their sports nutrition. There are several pre-workout supplements that you can take. These “pre-workouts” can boost your stamina and energy before exercising. Moreover, you can find these supplements in several forms. 

One of the benefits of using them is getting all the needed formulas from a single source. However, since the quality of these pre-workouts is not always ideal, it is best to stick to natural alternatives. So, here are some of the most common ingredients in a pre-workout supplement, along with their natural substitutes.

Creatine: For Strength

Creatine is a natural chemical in your body and a popular part of the sports nutrition diet. Hence, several additives contain the chemical. Creatine’s main function is to produce energy for muscle utilization. Moreover, it can help increase muscle mass and reduce the cramping of muscles.

The chemical can also be found in several food items. Some of the main natural sources of creatine are seafood and red meat.

BCAAs: For Enhancement

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs, decrease muscle fatigue and increase their mass. They can also activate several essential enzymes that allow you to work out for longer hours. Moreover, BCAAs can enhance stamina, resilience, and endurance for a short time.

You can find BCAAs in protein-rich foods like dairy and meat. They are also available in powder form as supplements.

Caffeine: For Focus

Caffeine is healthy and can improve your concentration if taken in moderate amounts. It is one of the primary ingredients in all pre-workouts. However, it is an addictive stimulant and may also have side effects like sleeplessness. The ingredient boosts your nervous system and increases your brain activity. Since it also increases adrenaline circulation in your system, it helps you feel focused and refreshed for short periods.

Coffee is the most popular source of caffeine. You can also find caffeine in other beverages like tea, soda, and energy drinks.

Nitrate and Nitric Oxide: For Pump and Vascularity

Nitric Oxide, a popular supplement, increases your blood flow and gives you a nice, vascular look. A natural alternative to this component is consuming green and leafy vegetables rich in nitrate. Since your body can convert nitrate into nitric oxide, vegetables like spinach and turnips are good choices. You can also find nitrate in beetroots and carrots.

Electrolytes: For Endurance

Lastly, electrolytes are an important part of a pre-workout diet. You lose magnesium, potassium, and calcium through sweat while working out. So, you can regain these minerals using various soluble powders and energy drinks.

Pickle juice and lentils are some popular sources of electrolytes. You can also find these minerals in sunflower seeds and spinach.

Proper Hydration

Alongside a proper diet, proper hydration is key to a healthy workout. Since dehydration is a common symptom of excessive workout, it is vital to maintain your fluid levels. Water also helps lubricate your joints and carry nutrients across your body. So, you can keep your fluid levels intact by including juicy fruits like watermelon in your pre-workout meal. However, remember not to drink anything thirty minutes before working out. Excessive water intake while working out can cause muscle cramps as it causes your electrolyte level to drop.

You may also face more serious threats like hyponatremia if you do not keep your water intake in check. Seeking a sports medicine expert when you face any injuries and ailments due to exercise is a must.

Conclusion: What to Eat Before a Workout: A Pre-workout Meal Guide 

Eating a healthy meal before working out is vital. These meals are a major deciding factor for an ideal body. A proper diet is a must whether you are working out to lose weight or gain muscle. Moreover, the right foods can help you achieve your goals quicker and healthier. You can also try HGH Supplements & Post Workout Supplements

A complete and healthy meal consists of carbs, proteins, and fats in proper amounts. Several meals and light snacks can give you enough energy and stamina to exercise. However, you should ensure the meal you prepare suits your workout time. If you fix a heavy meal right before working out, your body will not have time to digest it. Hence, you may not be able to exercise efficiently and may even get cramps.

You can also balance your diet over a week. Some days you can eat more proteins and on other days, more carbs. Moreover, you can pair various foods and drinks that suit one another for more benefits. Lastly, you should keep your body fluid levels in check. Use this diet guide to quickly achieve your goals and stay fit.

Share this Article