The importance of consuming the right fuel before exercising can never be underestimated. While we've already explained that eating after every workout will help you replenish and recover, a pre-workout meal is just as vital. This is because it will give you the fuel you need to perform optimally, and will help you achieve the results you want. The question is, do you know what and when to eat before exercising?
What you should eat
In order to properly fuel your body you need to have an understanding of how the three macronutrients prepare you for exercise. Carbohydrates increase the body’s glycogen stores, which the body then converts into fuel, protein will improve muscle recovery and enhance muscle growth, and fats are a good energy source (although take longer to digest than carbs making them ideal for longer forms of exercise).
Given the above considerations, aim to get a healthy mixture of carbs, protein, and fat in each meal (with the recommended amount being a 40%, 30%, 30% split). Depending on the time you eat (see below) this will affect what you eat. The standard pre-work out meal is a carb heavy dish that usually includes pasta, potatoes, or rice. These slow energy releasing meals will help prevent fatigue during your exercising. For those who want a quick fix pre-workout meal without too much prep work a whole-fruit smoothie would be a good start. Fruits are an excellent source of easy-to-digest carbs as they are simple sugars. Oatmeal with blueberries also offer a good carbs-protein-fat mix, as do granola bars and bananas topped with peanut butter for those really opposed to meal prep. As long as you keep in mind your body's macronutrient needs you have plenty of options to suit your tastes dietary needs.
When and how much you should eat
When you take your pre-workout meal matters, as eating too much too close to your exercise time can cause stomach discomfort and affect your ability to exercise at full capacity. The rule here is to not eat a large meal close to when you plan on exercising. So, if your session is 2 hours away, a carb heavy meal such, as pasta, would have enough time to digest and give you the maximum energy boost for your exercising. If the start time is 30–40 minutes away, then an apple with some nuts would be digested in time to adequately fuel your body. And if you need a quick energy burst just as you're about to start, then you can grab a granola bar or a banana to provide a small amount of fuel that won’t disrupt your exercise routine.
Fueling you body with the right food will all go to waste if you don’t hydrate properly before you exercise. If you are dehydrated your body won’t be able to break the food down and convert it to energy, a process called adenosine triphosphate. So even if you paced yourself by having a carb-heavy meal over an hour before the workout, you will likely still feel just as tired as if you hadn’t eaten anything. Less water in the body also makes it harder for the heart to pump blood, which again will affect your exercise levels.
Follow the right advice
There is no question that there is a lot of content available online that covers this topic. In order to make sure that you are fueling yourself properly, both pre- and post workout, follow the advice of trained professionals and nutritionists. Today, those at the top of industry will have studied exercise science at degree level and are coached in specialist areas such as nutrition, as well as exercise prescription and program design. The best exercise nutritionists will have also covered different areas of fitness, making them able to cater to all abilities and dietary needs. And with the industry expanding at such a rapid rate, the good news is that more and more students are pursuing exercise at higher education, and helping get the right information out there.
Now that you’re all fueled up, with food and the right information, it’s time to stream your favorite workout and get a good sweat on. JetSweat’s workout videos bring the best fitness studios right into the palm of your hand, letting you work out anytime, anywhere.
Written by Anne Channel Exclusive for jetsweatfitness.com