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Pre-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before a Workout

Morning sweat sessions could be your new best friend, bringing a positive and energizing difference that stays with you throughout the day!
Are you the one who goes to the gym empty stomach thinking you will lose calories and burn fat more because your stomach is empty? The concept is good in theory but if our body starts working on approaches like these then for sure the problems related to weight are fully sorted, just starve yourself and get thin!
But, here we need to understand that our body mechanism doesn’t function like this, and our body needs energy to operate optimally. During exertion or strenuous physical activities, these energy requirements also increase and if you do not feed it properly there are chances your body acts negatively and in response will slow your metabolism making your weight loss or fat loss completely halted. The idea of a fasted workout surely works but only when approached intelligently and under proper guidance.
Your stomach is growling, your mind is foggy, you are energy-deprived, do you really think you will deliver your best while working out, no, absolutely not. We need food as food gives us energy, and to carry out an effective workout energy is spent. When we eat food like carbohydrates it is converted into glucose and that glucose is used as a primary energy source during physical exertion. Glucose from carbohydrates and glycogen stores(stored glucose in muscles and liver) both work together to provide the energy required for extended workout sessions.
You cannot give your 100 percent in your workouts if you are low in energy, exercise demands high energy, and if your goal is to build muscles or shred body fat, you have to exercise hard, not starve.

What to Eat Before a Workout

1. Carbohydrates

If you need energy to perform while exercising, then carbs are your friend. Consume complex carbs like oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, or pasta 30 to 45 minutes before your workout and you will be full of energy to perform a challenging workout. These all are complex carbs, complex carbs are fibrous and also protein rich thus they take time to digest, resulting in a gradual release of glucose into your bloodstream.
As you up your sleeves to start your workout you will have enough glucose in your blood and your glycogen stores will also be full. With that much glucose, you can have a wonderful session where you can give your maximum performance.
Sometimes due to lack of time, you have a short window within a pre-workout meal and workout, don’t eat complex carbs in this situation but have simple carbs instead like white rice, white bread, or fruit as simple carbs are digested fast, and immediately within 5 to 10 minutes, they spike your glucose levels providing energy for your session.
Many athletes practice carb loading, a strategy where they consume high-carb diets for 2 to 3 days leading up to a demanding event or exercise session. By doing so, they aim to maximize their glycogen stores, this pre-planning ensures that their glycogen stores are fully stocked and ready to fuel their performance on the day of the event or workout, helping them maintain high energy levels and endurance.
Some exercises are very demanding on energy, like weight lifting, sprints, jumping plyometrics, Olympic lifting, or cross-fit drills, at that time glycogen stores are a great help, tandem with pre-workout carbs.

2. Proteins

Protein is one macronutrient that is necessary for everyone who wants a lean mass and a low-fat physique. The recommended daily amount of protein is approximately 0.8 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight depending on what type of activity you carry in a day, offcourse athletes need proteins on the higher side than the common man. It’s generally safe for healthy adults to consume up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
The upper limit is 3.5 grams per kilogram of body weight daily for well-adapted individuals. But, too much protein (over 2 grams per kilogram of body weight daily) long-term can cause digestive, kidney, and blood vessel issues.

If in a day as per your body weight your protein requirement is 100 g then it is not that you will consume it in one go, you need to distribute that amount in equal meals, if you are eating 5 meals in a day then protein must be spread in 20gms/meal.

But why protein in every meal?
Our body can store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, primarily in the liver and muscles. Similarly, excess dietary fats also get stored in adipose tissues (body fat) for long-term energy storage, but like fat and carb storage body does not have a specialized storage system for proteins.
The protein we get from the diet is broken down into its constituent amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to various tissues and cells throughout the body, where they are utilized for a wide range of physiological processes like muscle tissue repair and growth, enzyme production, hormone synthesis, immune function, and nutrient transport and storage.
Amino acids derived from dietary protein are utilized by the body continuously throughout the day. Therefore, consuming protein-rich meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day helps ensure a steady and sufficient supply of amino acids to support optimal health and function.
Protein in Pre-workout
Consuming protein before a workout serves multiple purposes essential for optimizing exercise performance and recovery.
  • It helps preserve muscle tissue during intense physical activity by reducing the likelihood of muscle breakdown for fuel.
  • Protein consumption before exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS), the process responsible for repairing and strengthening muscle fibers after they’ve been subjected to the stress of exercise. This priming effect prepares the muscles for optimal recovery during the post-workout period.
  • Protein can contribute to energy production during workouts, particularly in situations where carbohydrate stores are depleted, by converting amino acids into glucose through gluconeogenesis.
  • Beyond its role in energy metabolism, protein-rich foods also promote feelings of fullness and satiety, helping to sustain energy levels throughout the workout.
  • Higher protein intake also provides a thermic effect that may aid in reducing body fat.

Protein is an essential nutrient required throughout the day to sustain many biological activities, particularly during physical exercise. If you haven’t gotten enough protein in your diet, having a protein source before your workout can help. Choose fast-digesting protein choices such as whey protein, which can swiftly provide amino acids to your muscles.

However, if you’ve already fulfilled your protein requirements through your meals, further supplementation before a workout may be unnecessary. Consuming more protein than your body requires might cause amino acids to be converted into fat and deposited in fat depots.

3. Fats

Fats are an essential macronutrient required very much to undergo various physiological functions like energy production, cell membrane structuring, hormone synthesis, vitamin absorption, brain health, insulation, temperature regulation, and many more.
To take fats pre-workout doesn’t make any change in your workout efficiency, as fat is a concentrated source of energy that is digested slowly and utilized throughout the day for energy requirements. Despite timing, more important is to consume healthy fats, mostly saturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fatty fish, or coconut oil regularly in your diet but in less quantities. Saturated fats are good fats that help reduce bad cholesterol from your body and help you stay lean.
Do you know, that fats provide more than twice the calories per gram compared to carbohydrates or proteins, thats why need them in low quantities per gram compared to carbs or proteins. Also, fat consumption must be limited as excess fats in the bloodstream can lead to health issues such as elevated cholesterol levels or heart disease, and the extra fat stored in our body will lead to other problems like obesity.
What is fat stores and fat in the bloodstream?

After fats are absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream, they are transported to various tissues and organs throughout the body to be used for energy, stored as body fat, or utilized for various physiological functions.

Fat stores – also known as adipose tissue, are where excess dietary fat is stored in the body for later use. These fat stores are located throughout the body, including under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and around organs (visceral fat).

Fat in the bloodstream – refers to the presence of fatty acids and lipids circulating in the blood. These fats can come from the breakdown of stored fat, dietary fat recently consumed, or the liver’s production of fatty acids.

While fat stores represent long-term energy storage, fat in the bloodstream is more dynamic and can fluctuate depending on factors such as diet, exercise, and metabolic processes.

Is there any recommended ratio of macronutrient consumption before a workout?

Carbohydrates should be ingested 55-60% of total energy intake
Protein intake is 30% of energy intake
Dietary fats comprise 10%
These are the genre recommendations to be followed while grabbing your pre-workout nutrition. With these ratios of nutrient intake, you can create a positive energy balance in your body during periods of intense training to help prevent muscle breakdown and promote overall muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth (anabolism).

The timing of your pre-workout meal is key

Think like this, if you eat your preworkout food too early then you will use that energy before your session begins, and the meal will be of no use for your workout. On the other hand, if you have it near to the workout you will be bloated and food will not be digested fast to provide you with enough glucose to support your workout.
Timing of pre-workout nutrition is very important to gain maximum energy for your performance. The ideal time to have your pre-workout meal is 1 hour before your workout. This much time is enough for consumed food to get digested, but there is a caveat in it. This time applies only for food items that can digest easily and a meal is small around 300 to 400 calories, if you are planning a bigger meal say a 1000-calorie meal especially one high in protein like meat, it’s advisable to wait longer, perhaps 2 to 4 hours, for adequate digestion.
It is always advised to have foods that the body can turn into energy easily and that energy is also used immediately while you are in your session, what is the meaning of the food consumed if you are not getting the benefit that you are seeking from it? Pre-workout food is consumed solely for one reason to get extra energy so that you can perform better during challenging environments.

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