Updated: Sep 29
Fueling up for your workout…does it matter?
The short answer is yes! Have you ever found yourself tired, dragging on energy and wanting to call it quits halfway through your workout? Start off strong only to feel shaky and lightheaded shortly after you start? Baring any underlying health issues, it could be you are missing that pre workout nutrition. Pre workout nutrition has an important job - to provide the energy your body needs to perform!
Carbs = energy
Carbohydrates are the body’s number 1 fuel source during time of activity. The carbohydrates we eat are broken down into glucose, which then enters the muscles and gives us energy. For short, high intensity exercise the body turns to glucose first, so if you don’t have enough glucose available for the body to use you will likely start feeling weak and exhausted mid workout.
Protein = muscle support
Protein’s primary role is to aid in the growth, build, and maintenance of body tissues. Consuming protein pre workout has been shown to enhance muscle growth, improve muscle recovery and increase strength and performance. If you are going to be utilizing strength-training activities in your workout, then fueling and replenishing with protein is essential!
Healthy Fats = fuel for longer, steady state exercise
Healthy fats (poly and mono unsaturated) are a great companion for steady state training such as high mileage runs, bike rides and hikes. For low to moderate intensity endurance style activities, consuming healthy fats is key to supporting longer performance times.
Consider this: as a general rule of thumb, consuming a mix of carbs and lean protein 60-90 minutes prior to exercise will enable you to best support your body’s energy needs and ability to perform, key for HIIT activities. When should you add fat to the mix? About 2-3 hours prior to engaging in longer, steady state exercise (think 1hour or more).
Here are some examples of pre workout fuel
For a longer, steady state workout (consume 2-3 hours prior):
Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with greens (such as romaine lettuce, spinach or cabbage)
Veggie wrap in whole grain tortilla with 1 Tbps. hummus or 1/2 avocado, beans or tofu and greens (such as romaine lettuce, spinach or cabbage)
Whole grain toast topped with 1 egg, sliced avocado
Fish or chicken with brown rice and grilled vegetables (such as sweet potato, squash or zucchini)
For a high intensity workout (consume 60-90 minutes prior):
1 C oatmeal with 1Tbsp. nut butter
1 C low fat cottage cheese with side of fresh fruit (mandarin orange slices or pineapple are a nice complement!)
Protein smoothie; protein powder mixed milk of choice, 1 banana and/or 1/2 C frozen berries
1 C whole grain cereal with 1/2 C low fat milk of choice
1 piece of fruit such as a banana or apple with 1 Tbsp. nut butter (or eat fruit by itself)
Single slice of whole grain bread with 1 Tbsp. nut butter or hummus
2 – 4 graham crackers with 1 Tbsp. nut butter and/or 1 Tbsp. jam or jelly
Single serving trail mix (medley of dried fruit and unsalted nuts)
Bottom line: an important part of preparing for your next workout is to understand what your body will need to best do the job. In order to answer the when, what and how of pre workout nutrition ask yourself these 2 questions:
When did I last eat? If your last meal was 4 or more hours ago you will likely need a heartier snack vs. if you just ate 2 hours ago.
What type of workout is it? A workout lasting 60 minutes or less that includes high intensity exercise will require different fuel than that of a workout lasting 1 hour or more and is relying on low to moderate exercise.