November 11 2021
WHAT TO EAT PRE-WORKOUT: STRENGTH TRAINING
Sports nutrition can be a mystery...what should I eat? How much should I eat? When should I eat it? We've compiled information to help as a guide for pre-workout nutrition with everything you need to know...
This intro is the same as our introduction to "What to Eat Pre-Workout: Endurance Athletes"...if you have already read that, move on down to the next section.
There’s a lot of debate within the fitness community about what to eat pre-workout and how it affects athletic performance. With a quick google search, you will see everything from pre-workout protein drinks mixed with Chinese herbs to plates full of spaghetti and meatballs. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what’s best, especially when many of these claims are backed solely by personal experience rathe than hard science.
Every body is individual, so what works for one person may not work for everyone. It’s important to listen to your body and take note of when you feel especially good or bad during a sports practice or athletic training. Writing down what routine you had that day and how it made your feel can be an important tool towards understanding your own metabolism and how your body responds to different nutrients.
However, while it’s true we are all individual, there is scientific evidence for what pre-workout routine is most likely to give you the best boost in energy, performance, and mentality depending on your type of athletic activity. Different sports put different types of stresses on the body, so eating in a way that maximizes your ability to respond and recover to your chosen exercise can help push your training to the next level.
For your pre-workout meal, you’re going to want to focus on consuming complex carbohydrates. These carbohydrates take longer to digest, and the energy is released at a slower pace. This helps to sustain energy during long-races without getting fatigued.
A meal heavy in complex carbohydrates (3-5g per pound of body weight) the night before an endurance event is beneficial, and should include foods such as whole-grain pasta, rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, or quinoa with lean proteins and veggies.
This will raise the glycogen stores within your body and prepare you for endurance work. You’re then going to want to top off these glycogen stores 2-4 before your workout with whole-grain bread, pasta, sweet potatoes, broccoli, oatmeal, or beans (aim for 0.2-0.4g of carbs per pound of body weight).
WHAT TO EAT: STRENGTH TRAINING
There are key differences and reasons for choosing certain foods to eat before a strength training workout for maximum benefit
When you strength train, blood flows to your muscles and the nutrients you’ve eaten are quickly absorbed. Because of this, pre-workout nutrition is vital for building healthy muscles. Unlike endurance training, incorporating protein into your pre-workout meal is going to be very important. Protein is broken down into amino acids, which help your muscles recover and grow quickly, as well as promotes breaking down adipose (fat) tissue.
Combining this with carbohydrates will help sustain the energy levels within your body without breaking down muscles when energy levels get depleted. Eating equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates (about 30-45 grams each) 1-3 hours before a workout is going to be optimal for strength results.
Fast-digesting proteins are going to help prevent your body from breaking down muscle, and slow-digesting carbs will help keep your energy levels high throughout the entire workout. Foods such as eggs, lentils, beans, fish, chicken, cottage cheese, and tofu are all great protein options, and whole-wheat grains, quinoa, and sweet potatoes will provide your body with healthy carbohydrates.
What if I don't have enough time?
For a boost right before your workout, simple carbohydrates will provide your body with a quick energy source to give you an extra influx of energy. This should be done 30-60 minutes before your workout, and some good go-tos include fruits, such as bananas and mangoes, as well as dairy products. A Greek yogurt with some berries and a banana would be a perfect snack about an hour before a really difficult training set!
What is the science?
The key is having nutrients to repair muscle fibers so they grow back stronger.
Strength training is different than endurance athletics because the focus is on building muscle capability and short bursts of energy rather than needing prolonged energy storage. Having proper pre-workout nutrition with help keep you in an anabolic state, which is when your body is able to build muscles. To stay in this anabolic state, you need to provide your body with the nutrients to repair damaged muscle fibers and rebuild them stronger—which results in muscle growth. In contrast to this, when you are not eating the correct pre-workout nutrition, your body enters a catabolic state and the muscle tissue is broken down for energy.
Green vegetables, for example, have high levels of phytonutrients which lead to muscles going into an anabolic state. Green vegetables also have vitamins and minerals within them that help prolong the anabolic state. By choosing nutrients pre-workout that promote the body to be in a muscle building state rather than a state that favors breaking down muscle, strength trainers set the stage for their bodies to respond well to the exercises and achieve maximal performance.