Good pre-and post-workout nutrition is critical for fuelling energy, building lean muscle and effective recovery.
Why is pre-workout nutrition important?
A pre-workout meal provides your body with fuel and fluid for optimal performance. Pre-workout nutrition is not a cookie-cutter recipe as everyone stores and uses energy differently.
However, adequate hydration before a workout is essential, so drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to exercise.
When should I be eating before a workout?
Everyone digests and metabolizes food at different rates, so learning what to eat before working out can be a lot of trial and error. For every 200 calories consumed before exercise, give yourself one hour to digest.
1-4 hours out:
A small snack 1 to 2 hours (~200 calories) or a large snack/meal at least 4 hours before working out is well-tolerated. Foods higher in protein, fat or fibre, take much longer to digest, so be mindful when consuming before exercise.
Ever get the peanut butter reflux mid-workout? Nuts, or nut butters, are high in fat which slows down digestion.
30 mins - 1 hour before:
Aim for something light that digests quickly to prevent cramping or stomach pain. Choose a fruit like banana or apple (a great choice if you workout first thing in the morning). Snacks aren't necessary as long as you eat a well-balanced meal in the 1 to 4-hour window before working out.
If you take sports nutrition supplements, the 30-minute window is when you should drink pre-workout for added energy and focus (shop STAMINA here).
What should I be eating before a workout?
A pre-workout snack or meal should consist of:
- complex carbohydrates
- small amount of protein
- very little fat
*A complex carb is an energy source that contains starch, fibre and sugar and takes longer to digest. Complex carbs will provide energy throughout a workout.
|Complex carbohydrates||15 - 30 g (1-2 servings)|
|Protein||1g per kg of your body weight, or 1.2 -2g (to build muscle)|
Eat an adequate amount of carbohydrates to fuel your body when performing a moderate to high level of physical activity. We recommend between 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates before exercise to provide energy and maintain blood sugar levels. If you eat a large portion of carbs (>30 grams), do so at least 4+ hours before exercise so your body can digest the food and store it as energy (glycogen).
For protein, aim for 1 gram per kilogram of your body weight. If you want to build muscle, aim for 1.2 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Foods that are well-tolerated pre-workout:
- Small bowl whole-grain cereal + topped with fruit and milk of your choice
- ¾ c cooked oatmeal + 1 tbsp dried fruit + ¼ c greek yogurt
- rice cake + sliced banana + drizzle of honey
- Small bowl pasta (½ to 1 cup) with a tomato-based sauce
- Fruit smoothie
- 1 slice whole-grain toast + small amount of peanut butter
- Piece of fruit + 1-2 hard-boiled eggs
Want more ideas? To build a pre-workout meal, choose a complex carb like:
|oatmeal||brown rice||sweet potatoes|
|quinoa||whole-grain products||any fruit|
Pair your complex carb with lean protein to support your muscles. We recommend lean protein because fat delays gastric emptying (how long it takes food to move from your stomach to the small intestine). If a protein source is high in fat, it takes longer to digest and could affect physical performance.
A small amount of protein (between 7 to 14 g) 1 to 2 hours before a workout is well tolerated and can help prevent muscle soreness but is not necessary.
Examples of lean protein:
- Turkey or chicken breast
- Lean ground beef
- White fish
- Eggs + egg whites
- Cottage cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Tofu + soy products
- Small amounts of nut/nut butters
- Small amount of beans/lentils (caution: they are very high fibre, which also delays gastric emptying, so many do not tolerate these before a workout)
You will need to experiment with different foods to learn what is best for your body pre-workout. Proper nutrition is essential to help you optimize your performance and reach your goals.