The Most Important Meal for Training

Before you step foot into the gym you may have doomed your workout depending on what you ate before you left your house. Your pre-workout meal can make or break you in training and if it’s not done right, your gains in the gym can be minimized. You’ll probably also feel sluggish and have a guaranteed “off day” in the gym. In order to prevent this from happening here are a few tips you should consider next time before you hit the weights.

Let’s Get Things Straight

The general consensus in the fitness world is that a greater emphasis is placed on what you eat after your workout rather than what you eat before a workout. But let me pose a question to you: Is it smarter to have preventative maintenance done on your car or only take it when a problem occurs with it? The same thing applies to your pre-workout nutrition. Most people have your post-workout nutrition down. But shoring up before AND after will yield way better results than focusing on one over the other. The bottom line is if your before is lagging, you are depleting your muscle fibers by not stimulating them to their limits where they will form new scar tissue and muscle.

Pre-Workout Meal

This meal should be consumed about 1-2 hours before you are training and consist of a clean, slow-digesting carb, a fruit, and a good source of protein. Now I realize sometimes training can be sporadic and you don’t get to hit the gym when you want, but try to keep some sort of a schedule so you can properly fuel up and make optimal gains.

The right kinds of carbohydrates are key when fueling up for a workout. It’s a great source of energy and prevents the body from going to the muscles for energy. A slow digesting carb will last you the entirety of the workout.  When figuring which carbs to include in your meal, rice, whole grain pasta, or wheat/multi grain breads are great options.  Your body needs sufficient time to digest and process what you eat, so don’t overdo it when it comes to meal time.  As a rule of thumb, you should consume  20-40 grams of carbs 1-2 hours before your workout.

Another portion to be included in that pre-workout meal is fruit. These will contain your fast-digesting carbs that your body will use immediately and will help spike your insulin levels to give a jump start to your workout. One piece of fruit will do and apples, oranges, and bananas are all excellent options.

The last portion of the meal and most important is protein.  Protein is the cornerstone of building muscle and contains essential and nonessential amino acids necessary to build and repair muscle. In order to ensure that you get all the nutrients you need from protein, you need to consume complete protein sources such as eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, and milk. Another option is to grab yourself a protein shake. These are guaranteed to have a balance of the nutrients you need and are very convenient if you have a hectic lifestyle.  You should consume 20-40 grams of protein 1-2 hours before your workout.

The End

Proper nutrition before a workout is often overlooked and not given the consideration it should be. 1-2 hours before your workout consume the proper balance of carbs and protein, and you should have a great workout that helps you build muscle better and faster.

  1. scott deeby left a comment on August 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Great article – I often wonder about how what i’ve eaten affects performance. The fruit that you prescribe….I’d be concerned that after 2 hours the insulin spike would have mellowed. Wouldn’t it be better to eat the fruit much closer to the workout?

    thanks…and btw I’m signing up for the email feed!

    scott

    • The Strength Agenda left a comment on August 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Yes, the spike would begin to drop, but the timeframe is unique to the individual. Personally, two hours is great for me, but if you have a faster metabolism, keep a piece of fruit in your bag to eat closer to your workout or even during.

  2. Rasmus left a comment on February 28, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Hey Tom, great article 🙂

    My question: You say that you need 20-40 grams of carbs before workout. I like to eat pasta before training, but in just 100g pasta there is like 60+ grams of carbs. So I would only need 50g of pasta before training?

    Best regards
    Rasmus

    • The Strength Agenda left a comment on March 1, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Great question! The 20-40 grams is ideal, but you know your body best. Experiment with a little more or less and see how your training is affected.

  3. Andrew left a comment on May 9, 2013 at 8:25 am

    That’s was a pretty interesting article. I’ve been intermittent fasting for the last three weeks and haven’t noticed a difference in my performance at the gym. I still take my pre workout and BCAA’s, but before that, all I have had is plenty of fluids and my bulletproof coffee in the morning. I got a sedentary job so I believe I don’t need a huge breakfast. My fast is actually broken after I workout. Good stuff though. I like you site.

    • The Strength Agenda left a comment on May 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Interesting, Andrew. Glad you liked the article, and be sure to keep us updated on how IF works for you!

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