Eating prior to a workout is often something that causes a great deal of confusion. Should you eat a pre-workout meal at all, and if so, what’s the best option, how much should you consume and when?
The importance of pre-workout meals
In fact, eating prior to a workout is crucial for a number of reasons. In particular, it gives you the energy you need to exercise to the best of your abilities but the benefits extend far beyond that. A pre-workout meal can actually aid muscle growth, as using fuel from food prevents the body from having to snatch energy stores from muscles, in a process known as catabolism.
If your tank isn’t topped up before a workout, you’re also more likely to feel tired and sore long before the end of your session. This can also affect your concentration levels, which could result in an injury.
Time it right
Timing is critical if you want to reap the benefits of your pre-workout meal. Eating too early beforehand could mean you hit fatigue prematurely, but eating too near your session could cause cramp and indigestion. Ideally, eat somewhere between 45 minutes to two hours before your training commences.
What you eat prior to a workout also needs careful consideration, as some foods take longer to digest than others and provide different amounts of energy.
Fats, for instance, are slow to digest, so are best avoided prior to a workout, as they’ll only make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, protein is a great source to include in your pre-workout meal plans, as it fills your body with amino acids that prevent muscle catabolism. Complex carbohydrates are also useful food sources prior to training, as they release energy slowly, allowing you to exercise for longer.
As a general guideline, consume around 500 calories, consisting of around 20g of protein and 20-30g of complex carbohydrates or around half of your usual meal portion size.
Top pre-workout foods
Experiment with the timing and your food choices to find out what works best for you, but here are some top options to consider:
Eggs are brimming with nutrients and are a great source of protein, so if you want to keep the energy locked away in your muscles during workouts, an omelette is a worthy choice.
On those occasions when you don’t have time to prepare a pre-workout meal, a banana makes for a nutritious alternative. Packed with potassium and natural sugars, a banana will provide a much-needed boost to your glycogen stores. To gain the most benefits, eat a banana up to an hour prior to a workout.
A bowl of porridge gets the thumbs up at any time, thanks to its high nutritional content, but it makes for a quick and satisfying pre-workout meal, especially early in the morning. Rich in fibre and protein, porridge keeps blood sugar levels stable, allowing you to enjoy your workout sessions for longer.
Turkey is a lean meat high in muscle-boosting protein, so it’s the perfect pre-workout food ingredient. Team it with a wholegrain wrap for slow-releasing carbohydrates that keep energy levels topped up for longer.
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