Eating meals around your workouts can be a tricky balancing act. The body needs fuel in order to help you last the distance, but getting the right kind of fuel from the right kind of foods is the key. The body needs certain nutrients from certain food groups for specific reasons, whilst what is needed (and how much) varies depending on factors such as intensity.
Take carbohydrates for example. Muscles use the glucose from carbohydrates for fuel, as the glycogen stores within them are limited. Without carbohydrates, glycogen stores become depleted which in turn can cause workout output and intensity to diminish.
This is just one reason why working out on an empty stomach should be avoided. As a rule of thumb, a combination of carbohydrates and protein is often recommended, but this doesn’t mean a cheeseburger is a satisfactory pre-workout meal!
A few foods which make great components for pre-workout meals include:
Bananas are rich in fast-acting carbohydrates and provide great useable fuel for a workout. Often referred to as ‘nature’s best power bar’, they’re an integral source of potassium which aids in maintaining nerve and body function.
Oats are packed with fibre, which allows them to gradually release carbohydrates into the bloodstream. This steady stream helps to keep energy levels consistent during a workout.
Eggs are renowned for being a good source of protein and can help to aid muscle growth and recovery. For the best results, you should opt for egg whites as yolks metabolise slowly and can make you feel bloated and sluggish during your workout.
Wholegrains are full of fibre, which offer slow-release energy which is sustained throughout the duration of your workout. To get the best of both protein and carbs, wholegrain toast can be paired with egg whites.
Chickpeas are a good all in one source of both protein and carbs, with about 10 grams and 30 grams of each respectively in a quarter cup.
Fruit and Yogurt
Fruit is high in carbohydrates, whilst greek yogurt is packed with high quality protein. This combination of proteins and carbohydrates is essential as protein alone doesn’t break down fast enough to be sufficient for fuelling a whole workout. However, the carbs from the fruit do and the protein from the yogurt can be used later to prevent muscle damage.
The timing of your pre-workout meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition. For the best results, it’s recommended to eat a complete meal with carbs, protein and fat 2-3 hours before you workout. However, if this isn’t possible, a smaller, easier to digest meal consisting of mainly carbs and some protein can be eaten 45-60 minutes prior.
Leaving adequate time between meals and exercise can help your body get the full range of nutrients, whilst it can also help to prevent stomach discomfort during exercise.
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