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Required Eating! The Pre-Workout Meal

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A very common trend over the years I’ve experienced are clients coming in not having eaten enough or at all prior to their workout. This has occurred for years in the mornings and in the afternoons, very common. If you are not having a well balanced pre-workout MEAL then you’re not maximizing your potential. There is no generally healthy individual on the planet that would not benefit greatly from fueling their body pre-workout vs not doing so, zero exceptions. The benefits vs drawbacks are literally 100% pro pre-workout vs 0% no pre-workout.

BENEFITS TO EATING A PRE-WORKOUT MEAL
– overall, more healthy eating habits
– more energy for workout
– yields more strength for workout and long term consistent strength gains
– maintains muscle gains, yields hypertrophy, leading to better body composition
– provides more stamina/endurance for harder workouts
– prevents food cravings (overeating bad foods), when you remain satiated throughout the day
– improves cognitive functioning, more focus yields better workouts, better muscle contractions, better overall efficiency. Fitness professionals often utilize supplements to increase mental focus in addition to a perfect diet.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF NOT EATING A PRE-WORKOUT MEAL
– overall, less healthy eating habits
– no energy for workout, even with best intentions and efforts someone with no fuel will not perform nearly as well…less strength, less stamina, less results
– muscle atrophy (muscle loss), body will feed off what muscle you do have to create energy when no calories available (especially no carbs available)…this leads to worse body composition and lack of gains over the long term
– food cravings more prevalent, likelihood to fall of the wagon of your diet.
– decreased cognitive functioning, not as alert, inability to focus…to a much smaller degree think of someone in the desert with no food/water and how their cognitive functioning decreases

SO WHAT DOES A GOOD PRE-WORKOUT MEAL LOOK LIKE?
A very general starting point would be as follows. Lighter people on the lower side and heavier people on the higher side

FEMALES
– 2-4oz lean protein/8g of healthy fat/15-25g of carbs/1 cup of greens
MALES
– 4-8oz lean protein/8g of healthy fat/25-50g of carbs/1 cup of greens

This is very general and could definitely be much more particular based on someones age/weight/activity level/goals/etc but for someone who doesn’t have much experience with monitoring what they eat this would be a good starting point.

WHEN SHOULD I EAT MY PRE-WORKOUT MEAL
1-3 hours before your workout. Experiment with what works best but thats the general rule of thumb. I tend to eat right before I make my intra workout shakes and begin my foam rolling/warming up.

“I’M NOT HUNGRY FOR MY PRE-WORKOUT MEAL”
Doesn’t matter, if you want the best results eat with logic and not emotion. Your body will adapt and get used to eating pre-workout. Simply put if you do not consume a pre-workout meal then you will not come close to reaching your potential. Your strength, energy, and mental focus will all be downgraded with no pre-workout meal, that is not a recipe for success. If you’re going to go through the trouble of trying to get in shape, make value of your money and time and do it the right way.

“I DON’T HAVE TIME TO EAT A PRE-WORKOUT MEAL”
Worst excuse in the world. The busiest person on earth has time to make a pre-workout meal if they have the desire to. Best options for the busy lifestyle.
– Pay a personal assistant/cook to do it for you
– Pick a day and meal prep everything in advance yourself
– Overslept? Had to work late? Always have meal replacement bars like the Quest bars (200 calories/22g carbs/9g fat/20g protein) on hand for convenience. Notice numbers look very similar to what I posted up above.
– Toast in oven the night before, peanut butter snack pack, protein shake
– Night before set out oatmeal, protein powder, handful of nuts

To be blunt, if you don’t make time to manage your food then you will fail. The results you desire simply won’t happen.

“EATING BEFORE WORKING OUT MAKES ME FEEL BAD”
Yielding negative results after going through the trouble of working out day in and day out will make you feel 10x worse. There are a number of factors that could lead one to feeling bad and the most likely is someone coming off of poor diet habits, getting overheated from working out and attributing it towards food opposed to attributing it towards simply being gassed and out of shape. As stated up above, eating a pre-workout meal only has positive benefits, not eating a pre-workout meal only has negative benefits. Think logically, not emotionally.

“I CAN’T WORKOUT AND/OR RUN WITH A FULL STOMACH”
You can, and you will perform better than you would ever be able to on an empty stomach, without question. Foods come in all sizes so the simplest thing would be to pick smaller volumes of food and/or eat a little bit further away from your workout. Meal replacement bars are pretty small. If you make your own shake with protein/oats/fruit/greens/etc…By using less liquid in the shake you will have less volume to drink yet still get the same calories and macros you need. With nutrition, there is an answer for all excuses, so no point in having them. You do or you don’t.

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About the Author:

Taylor Carpenter is a nationally Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Taylor was featured as a fitness expert in the first publication of NASM's "The Fitness Edge".
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