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Pre-Workout Meal: What To Eat Before A Training Session

Healthy snacks that will help you perform better.

Your pre-workout meal is as important as you post-workout nutrition. Before working out, your body needs the right nutrients in order to perform at its best. In this article we will give you tips and examples for a good pre-workout meal.

Eating before a workout is as important as eating after a training session

  • Carbohydrate: During a workout, your body uses glycogen as a primary source of energy. Glycogen is the main storage form of glucose, which is stored in your liver and muscles. Thus, it is very important to consume carbohydrates before your workout in order to perform at your best.
  • Protein: Protein is needed to help and repair and grow muscle tissue. Since you have not been working out yet, protein is not very important before your workout.
  • Fat: Fat can be used as a source of energy if you're doing a prolonged aerobic activity (e.g. running for more than 45 minutes). So if you're doing an anaerobic training (e.g. strength training) consuming fat before your workout is not a necessity. Therefore, consuming fat before your workout should not be a priority.

Can I work out fasted?

Is there any benefit to train in a fasted state? Research has shown similar results of body compositions regardless if you're fasted or not.

Can you train fasted? You can, but it also depends on the intensity of your workout.

Let's assume your glycogen stores are full before entering your fast. Doing a fasted 20-minute slow intensity run or a light 30-minute light weight training may be okay. However, if you're doing a 1+ hour run or weight training session, you should consume something before your workout. Otherwise, your body may be running out of glycogen and could potentially use muscle protein as a source of energy.

What to eat before a workout?

Since glycogen is the body's primary source of energy, it is what we will be mainly focusing on.

Studies suggest that you consume at least 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercising. This may differ from person to person and the type of workout you will be doing.

The meal you should consume will depend on when your training session will be. If you're training in 30 minutes you will be eating something lighter than if you were about to train in 2 hours.

When to eat before a workout?

Here are some examples of what kind of meal you should eat before your workout:

  • 3+ hours before: a solid meal of your choice. Ideally something that includes complex carbs, good fats and quality proteins.
  • 2-2:30 hours before: you can consume something similar to the 3+ hour range. However, if you're doing a running session, you may want to reduce your fat and fiber intake because they can make you get an upset stomach since they slow down your digestion.
  • 1-1:30 hour before: a snack that primarily includes carbohydrates.
  • 30-45 minutes before: a really small snack such as fruits that are low in fibers.
  • now: consider using carbs powder such as: maltodextrin, vitargo...

Eating timings can differ based on how fast you digest certain foods, so adjust accordingly.

Pre-workout food ideas

  • Carbs
    • Fruits (banana, peach, pineapple...)
    • White rice
    • Pasta
    • Potatoes
    • ...

Pre-workout snack ideas

  • Bagel:
    • Timing: 3+ hours before
    • Calories:
      • 417 kcals
      • Carbohydrates: 40.7g
      • Fat: 20.5g
      • Protein: 17.5g
    • Ingredients:
      • Egg (1 large)
      • Bagel (1 unit)
      • Turkey bacon (1 slice)
      • Italian tomato (1 slice)
      • Avocado (1 slice)
      • Olive oil (1 tea spoon)
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  • Greek Yogurt:
    • Timing: 2-2:30 hours before
    • Calories:
      • 335 kcals
      • Carbohydrates: 42.7g
      • Fat: 6.2g
      • Protein: 27.1g
    • Ingredients:
      • Greek yogurt, 2% fat (175g - 3/4 cup)
      • Banana (1 large)
      • Strawberry (4 units)
      • Peanut butter (1 tea spoon)
      • Protein powder (10g - 1/3 scoop)
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Greek Yogurt

  • Peanut Butter Sandwich:
    • Timing: 1-1:30 hours before
    • Calories:
      • 271 kcals
      • Carbohydrates: 40g
      • Fat: 9g
      • Protein: 9g
    • Ingredients:
      • Whole wheat bread (1 slice - 45g)
      • Banana (1/2 large)
      • Peanut butter (1/2 table spoon)
      • Almond milk, unsweetened (250ml - 1 cup) (doesn't have to be included)
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Peanut Butter Sandwich

  • Protein Smoothie:
    • Timing: 30-45 minutes before
    • Calories:
      • 181 kcals
      • Carbohydrates: 25g
      • Fat: 3g
      • Protein: 14g
    • Ingredients:
      • Almond milk, unsweetened (250ml - 1 cup)
      • Banana (1/2 large)
      • Blueberries (50g - 1/3 cup)
      • Protein powder (15g - 1/2 scoop)
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Protein Smoothie

In summary

  • Your pre-workout meal is as important as your post-workout meal.
  • Consume a moderate to high carbohydrate meal 2-3 hours before your workout.
  • Eat at least 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of exercising.
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