What to eat before a heavy workout
Looking to train hard and bulk up? Pay attention to how you fuel your body!
Besides interfering with your ideal results, eating the wrong thing before a workout can leave you feeling sick, light-headed, tired, nauseous, or bloated—nothing you want to feel when you’re supposed to be waging war on the weights!
So, what should you eat before a major training session?
Generally, the ideal meal before a hardcore workout is made up of a lot of high quality complex carbohydrates and some good quality protein, taken about two hours before you hit the gym/ring/track/whatever. Your meal should include less protein than carbohydrates, as it’s the carbs that will be actually fueling your workout; the protein is just there to help protect your muscles from protein catabolism. In fact, you’ll want to eat enough carbs to prevent this protein from being used as fuel, so that it’s free to go toward building and repairing the muscles targeted during your workout.
If you’re looking to put on masses of muscle, carbohydrates are just as important as protein, if not more so. Not to oversimplify it, but not enough carbs in your diet basically means not enough fuel for growth.
Carbohydrates not only help keep energy levels high, and thus fuel your workouts, but also work to help shuttle the amino acids from proteins into your muscle tissue (since carbs increase your insulin levels and insulin is necessary for the transfer of aminos into the muscle).
You’ll want your carbohydrates to be of the low-glycemic variety. These are generally slower-digesting carbs, meaning they’ll supply a long-lasting, steady stream of nutrients to your body. Brown rice, steel-cut oats, whole grains, and sweet potatoes are all examples of low-glycemic carbs.
Fruits in general tend to be good sources of carbs, but they also tend to be loaded with fiber. While this is a good thing at every other time, you may want to avoid it before a workout as it can cause heartburn, bloating, and other digestive upsets—not a good feeling when you’re trying to hit a personal best. Acidic foods like tomatoes should also be avoided pre-workout for the same reasons.
Soy nuts are a good choice as they are rich in both protein and carbs—a ¼ cup of soy nuts contains about 11gs of complex carbohydrates and 14gs of protein.
However, try to not rely too heavily on nuts, as they can pack a large dose of fat. Though fat is essential to your good health, and will play a role in you bulking up effectively, you should also take in lean sources of protein like chicken, turkey, 93% lean red meats, egg whites, and most seafoods.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are also undeniably good for your health, but try splitting your intake—taking them at night can reduce your cravings for sweets if you’re eating a low-carb meal for dinner. Be careful, though, as taking your EFAs in the morning (say, in the form of a fish oil capsule) can really kill your appetite. This will make it hard to get in the other nutrients you need—especially carbs—for an effective workout.
After you’ve stocked up on carbs and protein and given it all time to digest, consider reaching for a banana or some Greek yogurt about half an hour before gymtime. Barring allergies, these two foods are generally easy on the system and nutrient-rich. The banana especially has staying power and will provide a steady stream of potassium to your working muscles.
So, to sum up:
-A complex carb-dense meal with some protein on the side a few hours before you train
-If needed, a nutrient-dense, low fiber snack about half an hour before
-Try to avoid acids and fiber to keep from getting an upset stomach or heartburn
If you’ve got any insight or favorite pre-workout meals, let us know!
Last edited by NutritionNut; 05-07-2012 at 03:17 PM.
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