Pre Workout Nutrition

What To Eat To Fuel Your Workout

Do you occasionally find yourself fatigued only half way through your workouts? What you eat before and after your workouts can play a role in how energetic you feel for your workout and how quickly you recover afterwards. In this article I will focus on pre workout nutrition.

Your body strives to maintain a certain amount of blood sugar (glucose) in your blood stream to be used for fuel. Different foods affect how quickly your blood sugar rises. When your blood sugar rises too quickly, your body responds by releasing extra insulin (insulin is what allows the sugar to go from your blood stream into the cell to be used as energy or stored for later usage). When this surge of insulin has done its job, the “rebound effect” has happened; your blood sugar levels drop too low, thus leaving you feeling fatigued – a.k.a. the quick sugar fix.

If you skip pre workout meals or go too long without eating before a workout, your blood sugars will drop very low, leaving you feeling fatigued, dizzy, weak, and possibly nauseous. The more intense your workouts, the more benefits you will receive. If you do not properly fuel your body for a workout, you will not be able to put energy into your weight training routine. The lackluster workouts will negatively effect your muscle building capacity which is why pre workout nutrition is so important!

Not all foods affect everybody the same way. Certain classes of foods tend to be predictable for the majority of the population, but certain foods will vary from person to person. The best thing to do is experiment to see what works best for you and how your body responds to certain foods.

The best pre workout snack is a food that raises your blood sugars slowly. These foods are slow digesting, therefore the sugars from the foods are released very slowly into your bloodstream, your body releases small amounts of insulin at a time, which translates into a steady energy supply over several hours.

Now the complicated part is not all types of foods are slow or quick to digest. For example most fruits are slow to digest, except for bananas and raisins. Each food has to be tested separately to be classified, and then the results will vary from person to person. Here are some of the factors affecting how foods are rated:

  • How much fiber is in a food – Foods with higher fiber content take longer to digest.
  • Sugar content – Sugar is quickly digested and released into the blood stream.
  • Fructose (fruit sugar) – Fructose is a simple sugar, but takes longer to digest because it must go to the liver first to be converted into glucose and then sent back to your bloodstream where your body can use it for energy.
  • Raw or cooked – Cooking makes a food more digestible. Raw foods take longer to digest.
  • Protein content – Approx. 65 percent of protein becomes glucose, but it takes 6-8 hours to do so. Foods with protein take longer to digest.
  • Fat – Fat takes longer to digest, and therefore has a stabilizing affect on blood sugar.
  • Processing – Processed foods tend to have fiber removed, and therefore are quickly digested.

Since foods that take longer to digest give a steady supply of energy, these foods are the best pre workout foods. For the most part they are complex carbohydrate foods and most fruits, which should make up the basis of your pre workout nutrition. They should be eaten 2 to 3 hours before your workout. If eaten just before working out your body will not have time to digest the food and it will lay in your stomach because your blood has been diverted away from digestion and to the working muscles, causing you to feel bloated or sick.

Fruit and Vegetables

Here are some good slow digesting (low glycemic index) pre workout foods:

1. Apples
2. Oranges
3. Grapes
4. Grapefruit
5. 1/2 cup of pasta
6. A few slices of whole grain bread
7. Oats
8. Yogurt
9. Nuts
10. 1/2 cup of brown rice

Let’s be realistic though, there are times when you don’t have time to eat 2 to 3 hours before working out. In this case, you should turn to faster digesting foods which will give you a quick short burst of energy. They should be eaten 20 to 60 minutes before your workout.

Here are some good fast digesting (high glycemic index) pre workout foods:

1. Bananas
2. Raisins
3. Energy Bars

If you are looking for a good pre workout snack idea, you can try this recipe:

  • 1/2 large Banana
  • 1 tbsp Raisins
  • 1/4 ounce Walnuts
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup cooked Oats

Let’s face it. There can also be times when you may have to get up early in the morning to do your workout and don’t have time to eat before working out. In situations like this I will usually just have a banana and strong coffee.

Do you guys usually have something to eat before a workout if you train first thing in the morning? Thought I’d ask the question in case anyone is interested in a discussion. Something I haven’t touched on is pre workout supplements, but I will discuss this in a different post.