Have there been days where you left for the gym all pumped and ready but somehow your body just was not working with you? Have you noticed that some days you are barely making it through your routine and on other days, you are absolutely killing it? Most people don’t consider the pre-workout foods they eat.
Well, there could be a connection between what you eat before hitting the gym and how your gym sessions actually go. While exercising is a huge part of fitness, food and nutrition is an even bigger part. Here are some simple tips to eat healthier if you haven’t already got to it. By eating the right meals, in the right portion sizes and at the right times, you can make the most of your exercise sessions and get better results in less time.
Based on research and several studies by nutritionists and fitness experts, there are certain foods as well as fluids that need to be consumed just before a workout session. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “Poor Hydration, Poor Performance Sustaining the best possible fluid balance is important for many reasons, including sustaining heart stroke volume, sustaining sweat rates, enabling delivery of nutrients to working cells and enhancing removal of metabolic waste products from cells.”
Not eating right before an exercise session is guaranteed to make you burn out faster which defeats the entire purpose of working out in the first place.
When choosing pre-workout meals, you want to pay more attention to foods that provide the perfect balance of carbs, protein, fats and fiber, in the quantity that they are needed. Getting your pre-workout meal right ensures that you have enough nutrients to fuel your body, prevent hunger and fatigue, maximize your body’s capacity to burn calories as well as aid recovery. Here are some of my favourite examples of pre-workout meals:
Simple Pre-Workout Foods:
1. Plain Greek yogurt with berries and granola bars
I like to call this the power combo. This meal will help get your body where it needs to be for the perfect workout session. Compared to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt contains almost double the protein and half the carbs and sodium. These work well together because while the berries and granola bar provide carbs that break down very quickly, the yoghurt balances it out by providing enough protein to prevent muscle damage. When choosing granola bars, try to focus on the ones that contain lots of nuts, seeds and whole grains (like oats, millets etc.). Also, try to keep flavours to the bare minimum (the more flavoring you have in your granola bars and your yogurt, the more sugar you are introducing into your diet).
2. Whole-fruit smoothies
Fruits contain simple sugars that are not only quick to release energy but also very easy to digest. Consuming smoothies just before a workout session is the perfect idea because not only do they provide you with instant energy, they are also very easy to burn off. The best part about smoothies as a pre-workout meal is that they are versatile and extremely easy to make. All you need is your favorite fruits, a blender and you are good to go.
If you also feel like taking your smoothie game up a notch, you could also incorporate nuts and seeds for more nutrients and plain Greek yoghurt for better consistency. However, with whole fruit smoothies you need to be careful with how much you consume. At the end of the day fruits contain lots of sugar and taking too much could actually do more harm than intended. If you need a little help on what smoothie recipes to try out just check here.
3. High-protein oatmeal and blueberries
This simple sugar, fiber and protein meal combo is all you need for long bouts of intense training. While blueberries will provide you with instant energy to begin your workout session, oatmeal carries you through. Because it contains high amounts of fiber, oatmeal digests very slowly, thus resulting in gradual energy release. This gradual release of energy means that all through your workout session, your energy levels are kept consistent and you can train harder for much longer. To infuse protein into your oatmeal (to combat possible muscle damage), you could prepare it in high protein milk or add some ground chia, flax or hemp seeds.
If you have not figured out the pre-workout power’s that bananas hold, then it’s a good thing you are reading this post. Bananas are rich in carbohydrates and potassium which aids nerve and muscle function. Truly natures power bar. By combining bananas with peanut butter and honey, you release slow and steady levels of glucose throughout your session. This combo works perfectly for long and intense workout sessions.
5. Apple with almond butter and raisins
Apples and raisins provide the perfect blend of simple sugars and easily digestible fiber. Consuming this meal combo ensures that you have instant energy but not too much fiber so that you are not too full to attack your workout session as planned. The monounsaturated fats are also a healthy source of energy for an early morning workout session.
6. Nut butter energy balls
Although nut butter is known to have a high fat content, they are a great protein source as well as an excellent energy source. Because of how long fats take to digest, nut butterballs will provide you with energy to sustain yourself for long workout periods. With these you will need to consume them carefully as they are a very calorie dense meal. If your goal is to build muscle, then nut butterballs will work just fine as a pre-workout meal.
On the other hand, if weight loss is the goal, then you might want to tread very carefully with this one. The best part about nut butterballs is how versatile they are. You can throw in some oats, honey, raisins, protein powder, and whatever else you want to see in there. Just make sure you’re careful so that you don’t end up packing on more calories than you’re going to be able to lose. If you need a little help putting together the perfect nut butter energy ball, then you should check this out.
7. DIY sports drink
As someone who is trying to get fit or stay fit, I am sure you’ve heard about a sports drink or two. Sports drinks are important for your workout because they help to keep your electrolytes in check. All that sweating can leave you dehydrated; you need something to keep that from happening. Instead of purchasing one from the store, you could whip something up on your own. Simply juice some of your favorite citrus fruits, add some sea salt, some ice-cold water, and some honey. This will help to replace all the water and minerals you lose when you sweat.
8. Homemade granola bar
Homemade granola bars make sure that your body is running on enough fuel for a lot less money. They contain the perfect protein-carb ratio and are perfect for intense workout sessions. You can try different things with your homemade granola bar with these recipes.
9. Low-fat cottage cheese and dried apricots
Cottage cheese is very often described as a powerhouse breakfast option because it contains healthy amounts of Casein and whey protein. While casein is a slow digesting protein that powers the muscles through intense workout sessions, whey protein is essential for building muscle and burning fat. Combine cottage cheese with dried apricots results in the perfect blend of protein, carbs and sugar – all that you need for a fulfilling workout session. While this is an excellent meal, you need to also be careful of your portion sizes so you don’t end up filling too full which is the last thing you need before a workout session.
10. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: the all American breakfast option. This is a very cheap, portable and easy to prepare pre-workout snack. P&J sandwiches contain enough sugar, fiber, protein and fats to see you through your early morning exercise routine. In order to minimize calories, it is best to prepare your sandwiches with whole wheat bread and homemade nut butter.
Although this is not all the available pre-workout meal options it is a great starting point. When preparing your pre-workout meal, portion size and timing may be more important than the food itself. The last thing you want is being so full that you can barely complete your routine as it defeats the entire point of exercising in the first place. Consume reasonable portions, and try to eat at least 30 minutes before you have to start exercising.