The days of eating whatever is currently in your refrigerator or going out to grab a quick bite to eat are over. What you eat before your workout can have a profound impact on both your body and your performance.
Going to the gym on empty is going to make you cut the session short and it won't be as intense as it should be. Your strength will be zapped and generally, you just won't want to be there. Here's the general protocol that I'm currently recommending for pre-workout nutrition:
The key to any good pre-workout nutrition method or approach is to consume the meal in enough time. While the sports supplement business and its advertising dominates the fitness and performance nutrition landscape, an intra-workout drink isn't the best option. Digestion takes anywhere from 45 minutes with a simple meal to upwards of 2 hours with a more complex whole food diet.
Which option you choose depends on how you respond to whole food. Personally, I can not eat a whole food source, specifically lean protein, within an hour to two hours pre-workout. My digestion just won't be good.Pre-Workout Nutrition Protein:
Consume 20-30 grams of whey protein. It does not have to be whey isolate but that is a preferred choice. Aim for a whey protein that has additional branch chain amino acids. Those additional branch chain amino acids will help to prevent and reduce fatigue during your training session. No matter what type of protein source that you decide to ingest pre-workout, you must make sure that you're not going to have any stomach issues from it.Pre Workout Carbohydrates:
I personally do very well with about 40 grams of oatmeal but I know that some people have an issue with oatmeal and feeling tired or sluggish after they consume it. If you don't do well with oatmeal, aim for other slower-digesting carbohydrates sources such as white or sweet potatoes or a small amount of fruit. I'm not the biggest fruit fan but the simple sugars pre-workout will both power your training and help with the muscle pump. Don't go too crazy with large amounts of carbohydrates, our main goal is to increase fat loss so you don't want to consume large amounts of starches. Too many carbohydrates pre-workout will prevent the body from using stored fat as energy. On top of that, large amounts of carbohydrates will cause you to feel sluggish and slow.Pre Workout Fat:
There's a small amount of evidence that pre-workout peanut butter might help increase fat loss but I really think the results are marginal at best. Keep the fat to a minimum pre-workout. I personally don't take any in and have seen good results from just a straight carbohydrate and protein meal before any type of activity.
I hope I've stressed my point enough that pre-workout nutrition is as vital as what you eat after your workout. Nutrition has become a science and I hope you jump on broad with proper pre-workout eating.Jimmy Smith, MS, CSCS is a nutrition and strength consultant and performance therapist based in Stamford, Conn. For more information visit his website at www.jimmysmithtraining.com.