‘Best Food: Pre-Workout’ by Justyna Kalka published in Great Health Guide (Oct 2016). Pre-workout foods are a topic of growing interest in the sports nutrition industry. Research indicates that some nutritional practices can greatly enhance human performance, improve agility and reaction times, as well as reduce or delay fatigue during strenuous exercise. It also indicates that poor nutrition may cause several negative side effects such as dehydration, declining performance or gastric upset. Read Justyna’s article to discover what foods are best pre-workout.
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NUTRITION: Best Food – Pre-Workout
written by Justyna Kalka
Pre-workout foods are a topic of growing interest in the sports nutrition industry. Research indicates that some nutritional practices can greatly enhance human performance, improve agility and reaction times, as well as reduce or delay fatigue during strenuous exercise.
On the other hand, failing to nourish the body and prepare for exercise or a sports event can have disastrous consequences for performance, including dehydration, the wrong foods causing gastric upset or ‘hitting the wall’ mid workout.
Nutritional requirements vary greatly amongst individuals. Factors such as gender, age, chosen sport regimes, weather conditions, intensity and duration of workouts will determine the specificity of one’s nutritional program. However, there are some common goals for a pre-workout meal, consumed in that one to three-hour window before exercise.
Glycogen and energy:
Protein, fat and carbohydrates are all possible sources of fuel for contracting muscles, however, your body’s ability to sustain lasting fast-burning energy throughout the duration of a workout largely depends on your glycogen reserves, which come from carbohydrates. Certainly in prolonged exercise, the point of fatigue coincides closely with the depletion of glycogen in the exercising muscles. It is just like topping up on fuel before going for a long drive in your car. You will not get very far on an empty tank. Many athletes describe the experience of exhausted glycogen reserves as ‘hitting the wall’ that comes about when your body uses up all it’s fuel reserves from the liver and muscle tissue.
Making sure you are eating some form of quality carbohydrates in the few hours before exercise will help maintain optimal levels of blood glucose for the exercising muscles and allow better, longer lasting energy. For morning exercisers, it is crucial to top up your glycogen stores, since they are likely to be low after an overnight fast.
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The pre-workout meal or snack should be based on carbohydrate rich foods, but lower in fat and protein to decrease the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort. Foods such as dried fruit (dates, apricots, sultanas, figs, fresh fruit salad, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, natural muesli bars, whole-meal sandwiches, oats and other grain cereals, all work well before physical activity. Foods that are wholesome and unprocessed will also provide your body with abundance of micro-nutrients, utilized later for recovery.
Fluid balance – begin exercise in a well-hydrated condition:
Ensuring you are well hydrated is just as important to your aerobic capacity. The benefits of hydration are many. Evidence points to the links between common disease like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer with chronic states of dehydration. While in sport settings, dehydration can significantly impair performance. Remember to stay well hydrated in the hours before and during a workout will promote better focus, skill performance and reduce fatigue.
Confident and ready to perform at your best:
The final consideration for dietary choices before a workout is gastrointestinal discomfort. Attention to timing, amount and content of your pre-workout meal can reduce the risk of upset during exercise. It applies more significantly in sports such as running or where bouncy movements are performed. Ensure that you consume foods that leave you feeling satisfied yet comfortable. In an hour before a workout, fresh fruits such as banana or orange slices, crackers or a handful of dried fruits would be sufficient to provide an energy boost, without overwhelming the digestive system.
Eating fibrous, fat or protein rich foods too close to exercise may cause discomfort in some individuals. Avoiding these foods in 1-2 hours before an exercise session and snacking on easily digested and absorbed carbohydrate options will boost your energy while leaving you light and ready to perform at your best. Reserve protein and fat rich meals for post-workout recovery and nourishment.
Author of this article:
Justyna Kalka is a qualified nutritionist for Zak Australia. She is devoted to educating others about the true vitality that comes from a careful balance of real food, the right mind set, healthy exercise and the importance of proper nourishment for growth and development. She is a professional speaker & health educator, promoting optimal health through wholesome, nutrient dense food and movement.
by Dr James M. Rippe
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