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Pre-Workout Nutrition

Knowing What to Eat Is Important

Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.

Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout. However, the ratio in which you need to consume them varies by individual and the type of exercise and the individual. Ratios are more important to follow over a certain amount of grams. You don’t want to end up overeating just to reach a number, it’s more about the proper balance: the Ratio.

Below is a brief look at the role of each macronutrient.


Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel.

For short- and high-intensity exercise, your muscle and liver stores of glycogen are your muscles' main source of energy.

But for longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors. These include the intensity, type of training and your overall diet .

Your muscles' glycogen stores are limited. As these stores become depleted, your output and intensity diminish.

Studies have consistently shown the ability of carbs to increase glycogen stores and utilization while boosting carb oxidation during exercise .

Carb loading, which involves consuming a high-carb diet for 1–7 days, is a well-known method to maximize glycogen stores. This practice is great for a marathon or triathlon event. Please keep in mind for day to day, the balance is more important.


Many studies have documented the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to improve athletic performance.

Consuming protein alone or with carbs prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.

One study showed a positive anabolic response after the ingestion of 20 grams of whey protein before exercise .

Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include:

• A better anabolic response, or muscle growth

• Improved muscle recovery

• Increased strength and lean body mass

• Increased muscle performance


While glycogen is used for short- and high-intensity bouts of exercise, fat becomes the source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise .

Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake on athletic performance. However, these studies looked at high-fat diets over a long period of time, rather than prior to exercise.

For example, a study showed how four weeks of a diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance running times in healthy, trained runners .

The type of fat matters. Utilize only Virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter and eggs. All other fats are normally too refined, causing metabolic issues within the liver.

SUMMARY: Carbs help maximize glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise, while fat helps fuel your body for longer, less intense workouts. Protein improves muscle protein synthesis and helps with recovery.

The Timing of Your Pre-Workout Meal Is Key

The timing of your meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition.

To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat 2–3 hours before you exercise.

However, in some cases you may not be able to get in a full meal 2-3 hours before working out.

In that case, then you can still eat a decent pre-workout meal. Just keep in mind that the sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and simpler the meal should be.

So if you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein.

This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.

SUMMARY:It's recommended to consume a full meal 2-3 hours before your workout. For meals eaten sooner before your workout, choose simpler carbs and some protein.

Some Examples of Pre-Workout Meals

Which foods and how much to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of the workout.

A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise.

If you eat fat with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before your workout.

Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals:

If Your Workout Starts in 2–3 Hours or More

• Sandwich on gluten free bread, lean protein and side salad

• Egg omelet and gluten free toast topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit

• Lean protein brown organic rice and roasted vegetables

If Your Workout Starts Within 2 Hours

• Protein smoothie made with almond milk, leafy greens banana and mixed berries

• Whole-grain or gluten free cereal and almond milk

• A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds

• Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on gluten free bread

If Your Workout Starts in 1 Hour or Less

• Greek yogurt and fruit

• Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients ( try Kasha or Kind brand)

• A piece of fruit such as banana, orange or apple

Keep in mind that you don't need to eat many pre-workout meals at different times. Just choose one of these.

For best results, experiment with different timings and compositions of your pre-workout meal.

SUMMARY:A combination of carbs and protein is recommended for pre-workout meals. Fat can also be beneficial, but it should be consumed at least two hours before exercise.

About the author: Jana Parrelli is the Life and Health Coach at terra Blanca Wellness Spa, LLP. Having more than 15 years in the health care and 16 years in the financial fields, Jana brings a wealth of experience to her clients, enabling them to benefit from cleaner, healthier lifestyles.

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