Depending on your fitness and athletic goals you may be eating before your workouts or not, but you can’t deny the importance of the pre-workout meal when it comes to overall performance and delaying the onset of fatigue. If your primary goal is fat loss, see Fasted Workouts to maximize your fat loss results… but if your goal is to workout harder, longer, and recover faster then you will want to keep reading.
The PRIMARY GOALS of the pre-workout meal are to accomplish 3 things:
- Delay muscle fatigue from glycogen depletion
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown
- Reduce post-workout cortisol levels (the “stress” hormone)
There are TWO KEY COMPONENTS to the pre-training meal:
What about fat and fibre? While important for all other meals and overall health, they’re not the primary focus for pre- and post-training since they delay gastric emptying. Essentially, you want to steady flow of amino acids and glucose within the blood during the workout without that food sitting around feeling heavy in your stomach. Too much liquid at one time during the workout can also quite often lead to this heavy feeling.
I have broken down a few key areas to think about for what you want to consider eating and drinking before training, and the implications for skipping the pre-workout meal. You may have a different protocol or philosophy around sports nutrition, but this is what works best for me and through years of practice with athletes and clients.
A general rule is to consume 0.25g per hour per lb of body weight before training, which accounts for these rough calorie ranges below (depending on your body weight).
So, if you weigh 185 lbs, that is 46.25g of Protein and Carbs 1 Hour before training… so 46.25g x 4 calories/gram = 185 calories / hour
Why do I like this protocol? It keeps things super simple, use your body weight as a rough idea of calories per hour before you train! Super simple.
4 Hours Before – 500-800 calories
3 Hours Before – 350-600 calories
2 Hours Before – 250-450 calories
1 Hour or Less Before – <250 calories
The above 1-4 hour window will give you an idea of the overall calories you want to aim for before training… this allows for the allotted time to giving your body “digest” and remove that meal from the stomach.
The ratio between Carbs and Protein should be 3:1 (Carbs 3 : Protein 1)
Using the example above of 46.25g or 185 calories:
Carbs → 185 / 4 x 3 = 138 calories or (34.5g)
Protein → 185 / 4 x 1 = 46 calories or (11.5g)
3-4 Hours (larger solid meal)
- Sandwich on sourdough or flax bread, lean protein and side salad
- Brown rice, lentil or quinoa pasta with lean protein and side salad
- Egg omelette and sourdough or flax bread topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit
- Lean protein, brown rice or quinoa and roasted vegetables
2-3 Hours (medium sized solid meal)
- Protein smoothie made with nut/seed milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries
- Whole-grain cereal and nut/seed milk
- A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds
- Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on sourdough or flax bread
1 Hour (solid or liquid)
- Greek yogurt and fruit
- Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients (or homemade)
- A piece of fruit such as banana, orange or apple
- Protein shake/smoothie
1 Hour or Less (liquid)
- Small protein shake/smoothie
Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat many pre-workout meals at different times. Just choose one of these… unless you’re eating about 4 hours before working out, then you may want to add a liquid shake before training or a supplement like BCAA’s during.
For best results, experiment with different timings and compositions of your pre-workout meal.