Are your gym clothes ready? Check. How about your fitness gadgets? Check. How about the running gears? Check. But are you still ready to feel the burn? Not sure ☹. Just when it looked like everything is ready and you are ready to rock the training session, but still there is no inner drive as you might have forgotten one of the basic things before your workout sessions. In order to reap the maximum benefit of each of your workout session, it is advised to fuel up your body to be ready yourself to feel the burn. And for that we are throwing some lights on some of the best pre-workout meal.
We also have listed out Top Pre-workout Supplementstowards the end of this article.
Why pre-workout meal is important?
It is important to recognize that optimal nutrient intake prior to exercise will not only help you maximize your performance but also minimize muscle damage. This becomes quite important if you are readying yourself for workouts with longer duration of more than an hour like marathon, and the ones with higher intensity gym sessions. Your body would need essential nutrients in the form of proteins, carbohydrates and little fats to provide fuel to your body thereby keeping you charged up during workout and also assisting in quick recovery post workout.
Timing is key for best pre-workout meals
The timing of your meal is one of the important factor in maximizing the results of your workout training. It is recommended to eat a mail containing proteins, carbohydrates and fat within a span of 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to workout. The important thing to note is that you should be taking smaller and simpler meal which are simpler to digest if you are eating just before the workout, else you can take full meal. It is also a function of body type which we will discuss in detail. Few recommendations for pre-workout meals as per the hourly gap are-
If you are taking pre-workout meal before 2-3 hours of workout.
If you are taking pre-workout meal before 1 hour of workout.
If you are taking pre-workout meal before half-an-hour of workout.
Other guidelines for best pre-workout meal
Everyone’s body is different and hence it becomes very important to understand how any meal reacts to your body. This might take some time for you to orient yourself with the best meal types which makes you feel satisfied. As a general principle, we can go with following rules-
- If you taking meal within half-an-hour to 1 hour before workout, it is recommended to eat one gram of carb per kilogram of your body
- Or If you taking meal within 1 to 2 hours before workout, it is recommended to eat two grams of carb per kilogram of your body
- Else if you taking meal more than 2 hours prior to workout, it is recommended to eat three grams of carb per kilogram of your body
Hydrate yourself well before workout
Consuming fluids before workout be it in water or shake form is highly recommended. On top of that, it is better to drink water throughout the day, along with making sure that you are also carrying a water bottle to bring with you during workout to replenish as you are exercising.
How pre-workout meal helps?
Carbohydrates forms an important part of pre-workout meal, along with good share of proteins and fats. When we consumer carbohydrates, it is broken down into glucose, which then enter our muscle cells and reacts to provide essential fuel to keep us energized during the workout. It is recommended to go with simple carbohydrates as they are easily digestible and will provide quick-fire fuel for breathtaking workout sessions.
Next comes proteins which is quite important and helps with repairing the muscles which goes through wear and tear during weight trainings. And if we have fat coupled with both carbohydrates and proteins, it will satisfy our hunger as we workout and burn more calories.
An easy guideline for creating this pre-workout meal would be to have carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the ratio of 3:2:1.
For Women’s health
Women in general have quite varying health requirement and every women’s body reacts differently. They require lesser calories than men to sustain through the day, and they burn lesser calories as well. As a woman, it is recommended that you are keeping your calories intake low in order to fuel your workout. Other factors would also be at play, like your workout type and body type, so you need to maintain that balance of pre-workout meal and workout routine.
Few of the great pre-workout meals for women are like:
- Almond and fruit smoothies with low calorie
- Half cup oatmeal with honey
- Greek yogurt
- Lean meat on top of whole grain bread
- Half sweet potato
For building muscles
In order to stay lean and build plenty of muscle, consuming a light meal about an hour before your workout, will help you see the necessary muscle growth you’re looking for. Your small meal should be made up of equal parts lean protein and carbs, and should be enough that it won’t sit heavy on stomach. It is greatly recommended to have equal portions of carbohydrates and protein in order to get nutrition punch for body-building. Some of the great pre-workout meal for body-building includes:
- Whey protein powders is a must to ensure consistent body-building (Refer the section on www.fitastra.com/best-whey-protein)
- Egg white with brown bread
- Multi-vitamin fruits like oranges, apples, or kiwi
- Brown rice or long-grain white rice
For weight loss
Weight loss needs tricky balance between your exercise routine and eating behavior. To ensure that you are burning more calories without adding any further weight, your pre-workout meal needs to be enough to complete those energy demands during the workouts. For maximum impact, carbs along with weight-loss whey proteins is the best way to go forward (visit Fitastra – Best Whey Protein for weight loss proteins)
Some of the recommended pre-workout meal for weight-loss are:
- Whey protein (for weight-loss)
- Peanut or almond butter with banana
- Fruits like apple or orange (No shakes please)
- Half cup oatmeal with raisins or berries
Useful supplements for pre-workout
Supplement are a great source of essential nutrients and improves health conditions if taken in prescribed manner. Regular use of supplements greatly enhances performance, improves strength, increases lean body muscles and reduces fatigue in your grueling workout sessions.
Creatine is considered to improve strength, increase lean muscles, and helps with muscle recovery quite quickly during exercise. It is one of the best recommended sports supplements as this muscular boost helps athletes to achieve bursts of speed and energy, especially during short bouts of high-intensity activities such as weight lifting or sprinting.
Research has shown that on regular workout days, it may be better to take creatine shortly before or after you exercise, rather than long before or after. While on the rest days, it may be beneficial to take it with food, but the timing is apparently not as important as on exercise days.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant which works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system thereby helping you stay charged up. It is quickly absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream hence it improves performance, increases strength and stimulates other organs as well.
The general source of caffeine is found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, but it can also be found in pre-workout supplements and pills.
Caffeine’s peak effects are seen mostly after 1 hour of consumption. For example, one cup of coffee can take as little as 20 minutes to reach the bloodstream and about one hour to reach full effectiveness.
Common sources of caffeine are – Espresso, coffee, energy drinks, cocoa beverage, chocolate milk etc. Caffeine doses as low as 1.4 mg per pound (or 3 mg per kg) of body weight may be sufficient to enhance exercise performance. But there could be certain side effects as well – too much caffeine can lead to headaches, high blood pressure and migraine, so it is recommended to take atmost 400mg per day.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases your muscle stores of carnosine and helps fight muscle fatigue. When acid starts to build up in your body during intense exercise, beta-alanine helps combat the acid and improves exercise performance. It improves performance during intense exercise lasting one to four minutes at a time.
The recommended daily dose is 2–5 grams, of which at least 0.5 grams should be consumed prior to your workout.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) refer to the essential molecules which are valine, leucine and isoleucine. These are mostly founded in high quantities in animal products like dairy, eggs and meat which supports muscle growth.
Research has shown that BCAAs are quite effective in improving endurance running performance with better benefits for slow runners (usually in marathon). It also reduces muscle soreness which usually happens after long hours of training or running, and reduces physical fatigue to a great extent.
Doses of BCAAs can vary between 5–20 grams and should be taken at least an hour prior to exercise. The ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine which might vary with the supplement, should ideally be in the ratio of 2:1:1.
Nitrate is mostly found in vegetables like spinach and beetroots. It may be beneficial for exercise performance because it can be converted into a molecule called nitric oxide, which can increase blood flow, and it decreases the amount of oxygen needed during exercise.
It is a great supplement for someone who is into endurance activities like running, cycling, swimming or other cardio exercises. It makes you feel quite comfortable while running without leading to any exhaustion.
The optimal dose of nitrate is probably 2.7–5.9 mg per pound (6–13 mg per kg) of body weight.
This can come as a surprise but the common household product like sodium carbonate is also an effective sports supplement.
Similar to Beta-Alanine, it helps fight against acid buildup in the body and reduced fatigue during exercise specially the “burning” sensation of your muscle.
This has proven quite beneficial for endurance activities involving longer duration like running and cycling.
The optimal dose for the best exercise performance is about 135 mg per pound (300 mg per kg) of body weight. But there could be certain side effects as well, like upset stomach, if not taken in proper doses.
Bottom Line for pre-workout supplements
Based on the information above, we are well aware with individual ingredients in pre-workout supplements. To quickly summarize the application of these pre-workout products, below is a quick brief.
- For endurance exercise with longer durations, you may be able to improve your performance with caffeine, nitrate and BCAAs.
- For shorter, intense activities, such as those that give you the “muscle burn” sensation, beta-alanine, sodium bicarbonate and caffeine may help.
- To perform at your best during strength and power exercise, such as weight training, you can try creatine and caffeine.
It is best to understand which ingredients are best for your type of exercise as it can give you a head start towards the best exercise feeling and performing your best.
Best Pre-workout Supplements for Workout
Top Pre-workout Supplements (India)
Top Pre-workout Supplements (US / International)
Avg. Review: 4.5
Avg. Price: $12.95
Brief: Nutricost’s Beta-Alanine Powder is pure beta-alanine with no additional ingredients added. Each scoop (included) contains 3 grams of potent, high-quality Beta-Alanine which decreases fatigue, burning and muscular damage. It is also non-GMO and gluten-free.
Avg. Review: 4.5
Avg. Price: $8
Brief: Provides energizing effects with zero added sugar or calories to support training needs without compromising dietary goals. Benefits include improved focus, elevated alertness, faster reaction time, reduced fatigue, increased endurance and elevated mood.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements
Some fitness enthusiasts prefer products that contain a blend of the supplements mentioned above as the combination of the above ingredients may have synergistic effects and improve performance significantly.
Caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine and BCAAs are among the most commonly used ingredients in these products which have shown to increase work output, strength, endurance, reaction time, focus and alertness.
The optimal dose depends on the product as explained earlier, but it’s generally recommended to take them about 30–45 minutes before exercise.