No matter how strong you are, don't expect your body to perform at its best during a training session without fuel. What I mean here is a pre-workout meal.
If you aspire to achieve your goals, whether building muscle, burning fat, or doing both at the same time, you should do whatever it takes to get the most out of your workout.
The meal before exercise is one of the most important factors that help you in the success of your training session, but some may neglect it or do it wrong.
The importance of a pre-workout meal
Protect the body from muscle fatigue and lethargy during exercise.
1- Your body converts the glycogen found in the liver and muscles into glucose (a type of sugar).
2- Muscles use glucose as the primary source of energy during exercise.
3- If the amount of glycogen in your body is completely depleted, you will be exposed to muscle fatigue and lethargy.
Preserve muscle mass from breakdown.
As mentioned above, the body depends on glycogen for energy production.
If your body doesn't have enough glycogen to provide the energy needed for exercise, it will start burning muscle tissue to get it.
“The perfect pre-workout meal”
When choosing a pre-workout meal, it's important to aim for a balance of macronutrients.
Each macronutrient has a specific role before exercise. However, the percentage you need to consume varies depending on the individual and the type of exercise.
Below is a brief look at the role of each.
Carbohydrates are the key nutrients that provide your body with optimal energy for performance. Therefore, putting some carbs in your pre-workout meal will provide you with fuel for a good workout.
What makes carbohydrates an ideal source of energy is their efficient way of using oxygen, as they use less oxygen to burn each kilocalorie than protein or fat.
This is very important, especially if you are a bodybuilder, as you need more oxygen for proper breathing.
How does your body use carbohydrates?
1- Glycogen stores in the liver and muscles depend mainly on the amount of carbohydrates in your body.
2- Your body converts glycogen into glucose (a type of sugar), which your muscles use as a main source of fuel during exercise.
This means that your ability to exercise is limited by the amount of glucose in your body.
3- After about 90 minutes of exercise, if your body's glycogen supply is completely depleted, you will run the risk of "muscle fatigue," or feeling lethargic during exercise.
4- If your body does not have enough glycogen to provide energy, it will start burning fats for energy, but the problem is that fats burn at a much slower rate than carbohydrates, which will slow down the intensity of your training.
There are two types of carbohydrates and each type has a special effect.
Simple carbohydrates: These are sugars that provide a quick boost in energy. White bread is a popular source of these carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates: These include fiber or starch. They provide a slower and more long-term power source. Whole-grain foods are a good source of complex carbohydrates.
What kind of carbs are best in a pre-workout meal?
Each has a role, but in general, complex carbohydrates are better as they provide a greater source of energy in the long run, and they have lower glycemic index scores than those containing simple carbohydrates, thus reducing the risk of developing a disease such as diabetes.
Simple carbohydrates are short-term energy sources. If the meal before exercise includes a lot of simple carbohydrates, a person may feel low on energy before they finish the exercise.
To increase energy before exercise, you should consume complex carbohydrates 2-3 hours before, and any simple carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes before.
Here are some examples of healthy foods that contain complex carbohydrates:
Broccoli, sweet potatoes and other vegetables
Whole grain pasta
Bread and whole grains
Fruits provide the best sources of simple carbohydrates before exercise. Bananas are a popular choice as they contain potassium and simple carbohydrates.
Protein plays an important role in the pre-workout meal.
Several studies have documented the importance of pre-workout protein consumption in improving athletic performance.
One study showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 grams of protein before exercise.
Importance of protein in a pre-workout meal:
1- Protein can increase the amount of muscle mass gained from exercise.
Extreme resistance bouts damage the muscles, but protein consumption increases the number of amino acids in the body. These acids work to reduce damage, synthesize muscle proteins, and stimulate growth.
2- Consuming 20 to 30 grams of protein before a workout can increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis that lasts for several hours.
3- Accelerate the muscular recovery process.
To repair muscle damage, your body needs protein, which is made up of amino acids, to build muscle.
An adequate supply of protein will help your muscles recover from stress during exercise, especially if you do weight lifting exercises.
Including some protein in your pre-workout meal helps reduce post-workout muscle soreness and quickly repair it.
Note that although protein is slow to burn, you will benefit from the advantages of speedy recovery and growth stimulation.
Protein rich foods
Here are some examples of healthy protein-rich foods:
Fish, such as salmon and tuna
Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
The importance of healthy fats in a pre-workout meal.
Many people try to limit the amount of fat in their diet, but cutting it out completely can actually hamper athletic performance.
Since healthy fats provide energy for the body, if your exercise usually lasts for more than an hour, your body will use the fat for energy after you run out of your glucose stores.
Whereas, carbohydrates help maximize glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise.
However, healthy fats also play a role, as fats help fuel your body for longer and less intense workouts.
So healthy fats are more suitable if your training period is more than an hour or for long-distance runners and swimmers, as shown in this study.
It showed how a four-week diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance times in a group of runners.
Examples of some healthy fats:
Meal before exercise according to the timing of eating it.
The timing of your meal is also an important aspect of pre-workout nutrition.
The body needs enough time to digest, in order to avoid indigestion and stomach upset during exercise.
Digestion time depends on the ingredients and amount of the meal itself.
The closer the meal is to the exercise time, the smaller it is, and it is preferable that it contains faster-digesting substances.
It varies from person to person depending on our ability to digest, so try more than one timing until you reach the best result
In general, try to eat a full meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat within 2-3 hours before your workout.
If your meal is in an hour or less, choose fast-digesting foods that contain simple carbohydrates and some protein.
This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.