Best Pre workout Snacks
I just finished up an expert Q&A for Men’s Fitness on the topic of pre and post-workout nutrition for optimal results. I spent several hours conducting in depth research to prepare for the Q&A, so I wanted to share with you what I learned about pre-workout meal nutrition. Here’s the follow up article on post-workout meal nutrition.
Pre-Workout Meal Benefits
A pre-workout meal is a whole foods meal that falls within 3 hours of your workout. When you eat the right foods in the right amounts as you will learn shortly, these nutrients can offer a number of benefits, including:
1) More Energy During Workouts – Filling up your glycogen stores (body’s energy tank) before a workout can help improve your energy levels significantly during a workout. If you have a very low carb diet, an intense workout can turn out to be very difficult to handle because glycogen stores are low. Energy levels are also affected by sleep patterns, when you have the most energy during the day, and hydration to name a few.
2) Protect Your Hard Earned Muscle – When you workout hard, especially with heavy weights, the body is in a catabolic environment, which can break down muscle tissue to use it as energy. A solid pre-workout meal can prevent muscle breakdown and improve energy repair and recovery.
3) Increased Muscle Growth – Eating protein during your workout meal can help slowly release amino acids into your blood stream, which can promote protein synthesis. If you are breaking down muscle and eating enough calories, muscle growth can be improved.
While there are benefits of a pre-workout meal, if you are on a fat loss program, you must budget in the calories of your pre-workout meal.
Some guys will have big pre and post-workout meals without any appreciation for how those extra calories effect their total calorie intake. These guys then wonder why they are not losing any fat!
Pre-Workout Meal: What & When To Eat?
To construct the best pre-workout meal possible, we need to understand the rate of digestion of different foods to determine meal timing.
In general, dietary fat takes around 6-8 hours to digest, protein 3-4 hours, and carbs 2-3 hours (depending on the source). In this context, digestion is the amount of time it takes for food to move from the stomach to the small intestine. Of course, the food is still not totally digested, because from the small intestine food makes its way toward the large intestine for further digestion and absorption of water. Total elimination of food residue can take anywhere from 24 hours to several days.
Before getting into specifics, the good news is that your meal does not have to be “fully” digested to have a great, energy filled workout.