The When, What and Why of Pre-workout Food Prep.
Food is Fuel – consumption of smart, nutritious snacks can change the nature of your workout.
The most important component however? The Timing!
When to eat before you exercise will depend on the type of workout you are running into.
Endurance or a longer workout coming your way? Your body will be searching for the sustained release of glycogen (an energy source obtained from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates), and for this, your body will be singing praises if you can eat 3-4 hours prior to start time. This meal should be a low GI, complex carbohydrate option.
Quicker one hour gym session or an afternoon run with your furry friend? Then aiming to eat about an hour prior to go time is the way to roll. Here we’ll be benefiting most from combining complex carbs with a small protein hit - but keeping it smaller and low calorie (250cal or less).
Pre-Workout Plate-Up (1-2 hours prior to ‘go time’).
Banana Smoothie – Combine a banana, oats and some nut butter with some cinnamon or cacao powder and use almond or coconut milk as a delicious base. Bananas are not only low GI so provide sustained energy release and carbohydrates to the body, but they also contain high amounts of potassium which assist with optimal muscle and nerve function.
Green Apple slices with 100% nut butter – A small amount of fiber and carbohydrate in the apple combined with protein and monounsaturated fats found in nut butter will help to provide lasting energy, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and relieving you of the mid-workout energy drain.
Cottage cheese on wholegrain rice crackers – Cottage cheese contains an optimal form of protein that is slow-digesting and will fuel your muscles for a longer period of time. Combine this delicious treat with wholegrain crackers and you’ve added the complex carbohydrates your body is able to use to replace the glycogen stores that are used up for energy during exercise.
If it’s a morning workout that gets you going then opting for an overnight oats recipe might be just the fuel you need. Try combining oats, oat or nut milk and some cinnamon in a jar stored in the fridge overnight. In the morning, top this dish with all your favourites – nuts, berries and a dollop of Greek yoghurt. Try this recipe with your favourite clean protein powder for added benefits of improved muscle recovery and function.
Low fat plain or Greek yoghurt with a few berries thrown in is perfect for the last minute workout preparation rush. If you’re closer to or under the one hour mark before your exercise begins than a lower calorie, higher energy snack is the go-to!
Food has never been more important!
Knowing how to best fuel your fitness will not only help you to perform at your peak, it will help you to recover and build on that progress sooner. The body will create energy in three different ways depending on whether we need a quick hit (usually from a natural source of Adenosine Tryphosphate (ATP) found in the body), a slightly longer burst (45 min gym workout) (where our body uses glucose) or energy for endurance (requiring the use of our glycogen stores, a substance obtained from the breakdown of carbohydrates). It is essential to understand what energy your body will be searching for, what you’ll use up and what food selections are best for you at different pre-workout periods.
When our body isn’t getting the right fuel and stores are running low we are more likely to run straight into a mid-workout fatigue, decreased muscle recovery and even an increased likelihood of injury.
The Take Home?
Creeping closer to workout time and not staying there long? Keep it simple.
Have more time before movement and planning a marathon? Fill up and make it complex (carbs).
We’re at the finish line but... don’t forget to hydrate! Want up to 80% more strength in your workout? Hydrate! The best hydration starts up to 24 hours prior to exercise. Sip your water over a 12 hour period rather than having larger amounts at once and you’re little cells will be swimmingly happy!