Pre-exercise nutrition needs
What and when you eat before exercise can make a big difference to your performance and recovery.
In the three hours before your workout, you’ll want to eat something that helps you:
• sustain energy;
• boost performance;
• preserve muscle mass; and
• speed recovery.
Here are a few ways to ensure you’re meeting your requirements.
Protein before exercise
Eating some protein in the few hours before exercise:
• Can help you maintain or even increase your muscle size. That’s important for anyone who wants to improve health, body composition, or performance.
• Can reduce markers of muscle damage (myoglobin, creatine kinase, and myofibrillar protein degradation). Or at least prevent them from getting worse. (Carbohydrates or a placebo eaten before exercise don’t seem to do the same thing.) The less damage to your muscles, the faster you recover, and the better you adapt to your exercise over the long term.
• Floods your bloodstream with amino acids just when your body needs them most. This boosts your muscle-building capabilities. So not only are you preventing damage, you’re increasing muscle size.
Before you rush off to mix a protein shake: While protein before a workout is a great idea, speed of digestion doesn’t seem to matter much. So any protein source, eaten within a few hours of the workout session, will do the trick.
Carbs before exercise
Eating carbs before exercise:
• Fuels your training and helps with recovery. It’s a popular misconception that you only need carbs if you’re engaging in a long (more than two hour) bout of endurance exercise. In reality, carbs can also enhance
shorter term (one hour) high-intensity training. So unless you’re just going for a quiet stroll, ensuring that you have some carbs in your system will improve high intensity performance.
• Preserves muscle and liver glycogen. This tells your brain that you are well fed, and helps increase muscle retention and growth.
• Stimulates the release of insulin. When combined with protein, this improves protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown. Another reason why a mixed meal is a great idea. No sugary carb drinks required.
Fats before exercise
Fats before exercise:
• Don’t appear to improve nor diminish sport performance. And they don’t seem to fuel performance — that’s what carbs are for.
• Do help to slow digestion, which maintains blood glucose and insulin levels and keeps you on an even keel.
• Provide some vitamins and minerals, and they’re important in everyone’s diet.
Pre-exercise nutrition in practice
With these things in mind, here are some practical recommendations for the pre-exercise period.
you can have a smaller meal just before your exercise session.
Here’s an example:
• 1 scoop protein powder
• 1 fist spinach
• 1 brown banana
• 1 thumb natural peanut butter
• 8 oz/240 ml unsweetened almond or coconut milk.
It probably goes without saying, but with pre-training nutrition, choose foods that don’t bother your stomach. Because… er… you know what happens if you don’t.