The 4 Best Pre-Workout Meals
Are your pre-workout meals getting in the way of your weight loss goals? Are you always wondering what to eat before you exercise? Or worse, do you hit the gym on an empty stomach?
To maximize the results of your training, whether you’re targeting muscle gain or weight loss- you need to make sure that your diet is complementing your exercise routine. This means you need to have a pre-workout meal within 3 hours before your workout.
Why You Should Eat Before You Exercise
For more energetic workouts: If you have a low carb diet before exercising, you may not be able to sustain the energy levels you need for your workout. Of course this depends on the type of exercise – yoga doesn’t need as much energy as high intensity training does. But in general, you need to level up your glycogen stores to effectively burn calories when you exercise.
For muscle repair: Your muscles are hard-earned. When you work out with weights, you tend to break down muscle tissue for energy during catabolic processes. Your muscles need to be protected and renewed from this breakdown. A good meal before you work out can reduce this muscle breakdown.
For muscle growth: Proteins before a workout can help you to grow muscles and maximize your weight training. Amino acids will slowly be released into your blood while you exercise, and muscle growth will be promoted.
This doesn’t mean you can eat a meal of any size or quality before you work out. There are rules about when, what and how much to eat.
What and When Should You Eat Before You Workout?
Nutritionists will tell you to have a combination of protein and carbohydrates before your workout – but not too much or too little. If you are trying to lose weight, then you need to budget the calories you take in.
In order to build your pre-workout meal, you need to think about how digestion takes place and the difference in the rates of digestion of difference types of food. Protein tends to take around 3 to 4 hours to break down, carbohydrates (from certain sources) takes around 2 to 3 hours and dietary fat takes between 6 and 8 hours to be digested.
Your pre-workout shake or meal should contain low fat, since fats take the longest to digest. You want most of what you eat to be broken down during your exercise. This means you should stay away from fatty oils and red meats. Instead, include protein-rich meats (about four to eight ounces) and low-fat dairy sources. Also include carbohydrates with low GI, which are complex carbs that release energy slowly into the bloodstream. High GI foods will burn down quickly and give you a burst of energy, but will sap you of energy and make you hungry for the rest of the day.
How Much Should You Eat?
Another question is, how much should you eat for your pre-workout meal? This depends on your exercise goals, the intensity and type of workouts and so on. It also depends on how sensitive your digestive system is. If you can eat an hour before workouts and be comfortable, then go ahead and do so. If, on the other hand, you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to eat 3 to 4 hours prior to working out to prevent feeling bloated at the gym. If you’re eating just a small snack, such as a handful of berries or some apple with peanut butter, you can do so 30 minutes prior.
Regarding the quantity, in general, aim for a 500 to 600 calorie meal about 2 to 3 hours prior, if you are a male weighing 180 lbs and are trying to lose weight.
The 4 Best Pre-Workout Meals
- Grilled Chicken (6 Ounces) with Asparagus and Yam
Grilled chicken breast for proteins, yam for good carbs and asparagus for fiber and vitamins make a great pre-workout meal. 6 ounces of grilled chicken will give you about 210 calories and around 42 grams of protein. 100 grams of yam will give you about 118 calories. You can vary the amount of yam in your meal depending on how much carbs you’re aiming for.
You can also replace the chicken with eggs, if you prefer. If taking eggs, go for two whole medium-sized eggs (a total of around 140 calories), and add two egg whites (around 17 calories in a large egg white) for more proteins without the yolk (which contains most of the fats and calories in the egg). Cook the whites without fat. Add some low fat cheese, onions, peppers and some grapefruit or oatmeal to complete the meal.
- Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Berries
If you work out in the morning, oatmeal and berries makes a great breakfast. The steel-cut oats give you plenty of carbs to burn slowly and keep you full while you exercise. The berries also give you carbs and antioxidants in addition. You can also consider stirring in some whey protein into the oatmeal for muscle-building. This is a great meal option for people with sensitive stomachs. The calorie content of a meal with cup oats and a handful of frozen unsweetened blueberries can be around 137.
- Berry Pomegranate Smoothie
Freshly made smoothies are a great pre-workout food, provided you don’t add sugared syrups. Sugar is high GI, which means it burns down too quickly to benefit you, and then make you hungry quickly afterwards. The right smoothie gives you the carbs you need while making sure you start your workout well-hydrated. Proper hydration is another way to ensure you are energetic during your exercise routines.
A simple smoothie blending a cup of low fat cottage cheese, a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries, half a cup of pomegranate juice (unsweetened) and 2 tablespoons of honey can be a delicious pre-workout food. The total calorie intake of such a smoothie is around 153 calories, provided you’re using low-fat cottage cheese.
The cottage cheese gives you the lean protein you need and the fruit gives you good carbohydrates for an energy boost. A smoothie is a great snack option (and alternative to a protein shake) if it has been a while since your last meal.
- Turkey Wrap with Veggies
Turkey is an excellent source of lean protein, additionally having less calories and fats than chicken. Make yourself a quick turkey and veggie wrap, packed with flavor and nutrients. If you use 2 whole wheat tortillas, half cup diced or chopped cooked (roasted) turkey, ¼ cup of fat free sour cream, one fifth cup chopped raw carrots, a tablespoon of raw chopped onion and a third cup of cucumber slices to make your wraps, and you can enjoy the meal within 350 calories.
These meal ideas give you a great source of nutrients to get you pumped up for your workouts. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water – around 16 ounces – to keep you hydrated before you get started. This will ensure you maximize your time at the gym. And remember, what you eat after you workout is just as important as what you eat before.
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