What to Eat Before a Workout: Optimising Your Pre workout Nutrition

By Luke Cafferty

Posted 4 years agoHEALTH

As much as I enjoy getting into the gym and working hard, I will also be the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. There are times when the constant stress of life accumulates, and the last thing I want to do is get into the gym and spend an hour or so sweating and grunting – no matter how good I know it will be for me in the long run.

And this appears constant among those of us who participate in physical activity regularly. We understand the benefits of physical exercise, are fully aware of its (obvious and positive) impact on body composition, and our entirely dedicated to the cause – but it can still become a grind.

During these times we often drag ourselves to the gym and get through a half-baked session at a moderate intensity, equipped and happy with the knowledge that it is better than doing nothing,

But what if there was a better way?

What if we could optimise our pre workout nutrition in such a way that not only we are full of energy by the time we get to the gym, but we are entirely focused on our workout, and the fatigue associated with our day to day life has dissipated into nothing more than a mere memory?

You might say that it sounds a little too good to be true. But I would say that it’s not.

By making a few tweaks to our pre workout meal (as in the meal we have 1-3 hours before our workout) we can optimise our training session by ensuring that the body is primed and ready to go for its coming workout.

This involves taking in the right macronutrients, and implementing the correct supplements (at the right time) to yield maximal results!

Consume Slow Release Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have gotten a bit of bad rap in recent years, in which they have received a lot of negative attention due to their (apparent) associations with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

The reason I say apparent is because it is always important to note that not all carbohydrates are created equal. While processed carbohydrates (think junk food, muesli bars, cereals, and breads) have shown strong associations with disease and illness, this is not true of unprocessed carbohydrates (think vegetables and fruits).

In fact, diets high in unprocessed carbohydrates have actually shown to have a positive impact on health, potentially protecting against heart disease and diabetes (so in short, we have nothing to worry about).

And this is important, because carbohydrates play an integral role in our ability to perform physical activity at a high intensity. Once consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is transported into the blood and shuttled around to the muscle tissue of the body. Once in the muscle tissue, glucose is broken down for the rapid release of energy.

By consuming natural, unprocessed carbohydrates 1-3 hours before our workout, we can guarantee the steady absorption of glucose into our muscle tissue throughout the duration of our training session. This will ensure we have adequate energy for the entirety of our session, allowing us to work at an extremely high intensity, and subsequently, make maximal gains.

The optimal slow release carbohydrates that we should prioritise as part of our pre training meal are starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, and fruit, such as apples and bananas.

Moreover, by consuming carbohydrates pre-workout, we will feel better and more energised, which will obviously go a long way in mentally preparing ourselves for a solid session.

Incorporate some lean protein


Protein is hands down the most important macronutrient we can consume. Once consumed, protein is broken down into amino acids in the gut, which are then absorbed into the blood and shuttled around the body.

Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and connective tissue, hormones, and metabolic enzymes (among a host of other important components that make up the human body…), and as such, are essential to recovery, health, and optimal function.

By consuming protein 1-3 hours before we start our training session we can ensure that a steady stream of amino acids is provided to the muscle tissue of the body, which will optimise its repair and development both during and after our workout.

This will in turn maximise our muscle growth, increasing the results of our training.

It is important to note that our pre workout protein should come from lean sources, such as poultry, red meat, or even protein powder, as these sources have very little fat content (and fat has shown to slow the absorption of other macronutrients – including protein!)

Read more about the common protein myths.

Have a quick coffee


Coffee is enjo
yed by people all over the world, and is constantly both applauded and recognised for its ability to promote productivity and increase energy levels.

While this may be over exaggerated at times, there is a heap of evidence to show that caffeine ingestion pre exercise will lead to improvements in performance and reductions in sensation of effort – effectively meaning that we feel as if we are doing less work when we are in fact working harder than ever.

Furthermore, caffeine has shown to improve cognition, reduce fatigue, and increase mental clarity, making it a great addition to our pre workout meal. Also considering that caffeine has a half-life of 4-8 hours (depending on our tolerance), it is absolutely perfect to consume 1-3 hours before we train.

Incorporate both Agmatine and Creatine

While I don’t recommend relying on supplements to get you through your workout, there are two that can make a massive difference when implemented into our pre workout meal.

First up is Agmatine.

Agmatine is a fairly new supplement that has been shown to improve focus and mental clarity, while also staving off fatigue and feelings of lethargy. As a result, consuming it pre workout can go a very long way to prepare us for a solid gym session, and maximising our time in the gym.

Second up is Creatine Monohydrate.

Creatine is ultimately the most well researched supplement on the planet. Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve muscle growth, work capacity, and strength development. As such, supplementing with Creatine can allow us to perform more work during our session – which has the capacity to vastly improving the results of our training.

By implanting the tips outlined in this article we can optimise our pre workout meal, ensuring adequate energy and recovery while also stimulating the nervous and muscular system so that they are primed for exercise.

This will stave off any sensations of fatigue and improve our energy levels, while severely increasing focus. All of which will lead to a better workout and greatly improved results!


About the author Luke Cafferty

Luke Cafferty. Luke is a fitness junkie, personal trainer, and blogger. He’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well-rounded physique. Check out more of his work at StrengthAuthority.com or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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