HYDERABAD: It’s a common notion that the only time to eat around a workout is right after. But the truth is pre-workout nutrition is just as important as post-workout re-fuelling for our bodies, say doctors who talk about the importance of a good pre-workout meal.
Even before you begin your workout, your body requires a source of energy, says Pranay Jain, founder-CEO, BodyFirst, Cherlapally. “But, avoid consuming large meals — keep in mind that the number of meals eaten before exercising will vary according to the individual and the workout undertaken. The right proportion of carbohydrates and proteins will supply you with the energy you require for your workouts,” he shares.
Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout, and so pre-workout meals are an important part of any fitness routine, says G Sushma, clinical dietitian, Care Hospitals, Banjara Hills. “Eating the right foods before you train can help fuel your workouts. Optimal nutrient intake prior to exercise not only helps maximise your performance but also minimise muscle damage. A pre-workout meal can help you perform better and recover faster, which can have a huge impact on your results,” she explains.
To get the most out of your workouts and recovery, you should focus on your macro nutrient intake. This means including mostly carbohydrates and some protein in your pre-workout meals, she adds. Each macro nutrient has a specific role before a workout. “However, the ratio in which you need to consume them varies by the individual and type of exercise. As a general recommendation, try to stick to a meal that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and has moderate protein,” Sushma advises.
One should also aim to choose foods their body can easily digest for energy to avoid the food sitting in the stomach before it is metabolised. “Digestible protein shakes, oatmeal, peanut butter, and fruits like bananas, apples, and pears or nut-based foods like almonds, pistachios, and chia seeds can all be eaten before a workout to help one get the proper amount of carbohydrates and fibre. These pre-workout meals are important for you to feel energised and reach your muscle-building potential,” Pranay tells CE. Sushma explains how the three macronutrients affect the body differently, pre-workout:
Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel. But for longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors. These include the intensity, type of training and your overall diet. “Eating or drinking carbohydrates before you work out can improve your performance and may even allow you to exercise for a longer period of time or with greater intensity. This is because carbs are your body’s main source of fuel,” says she.
Many studies have documented the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to improve athletic performance. Eating protein (alone or with carbs) prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis. “Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include better muscle growth, improved muscle recovery, increased strength and lean body mass and increased muscle performance,” she adds.
Finally, fat is the source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise.
Pre-workout meals for two to four hours before a workout:
Two slices of wholewheat/multi-grain toast with nut butter and sliced banana
A bowl of oatmeal with nuts and seeds
A small portion of baked/ grilled chicken with a side of salad/ roasted vegetables.
Pre-workout snacks for 30 minutes to one hour before a workout:
Piece of fruit and a small handful of nuts
A small tub of plain yogurt with sliced banana
Greek yogurt and fruit
Nutrition bar (energy/ protein bar)