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Choosing a pre-workout meal – What you need to know?

Pile of fruit and vegetables

Pre-workout meal helps in maximising your efforts and results, preventing you from burning muscle mass. Eating the right amount of pre-workout meal is the key to success.

Along with foods to eat after a workout for recovery, pre-workout meal is one topic in the fitness world that incites more debate and controversy than carbohydrates. Most people are stuck with a pre-conceived notion that training on empty stomach helps burn more fat. While it is true that when you work out on an empty stomach, body uses the stored fat as energy source, we must not forget that body also burns muscle tissues in the process. To avoid the burning of muscle tissues, you need to have a light pre-workout meal.

Pre-workout meal prepares your body for a strenuous workout

Experts believe that eating something before you exercise helps fuel your workout, maximising your efforts and results. Whether you are going to gym to build muscles or lose weight, the results of your workout will largely depend on how intense your training is. But, can you do intense workout without proper energy in your body? No! To train hard, your body needs to have the energy to sustain you through the workout, and the energy will only come from the food that you eat. Eating before a workout also helps avoid low blood sugar, which leads to light-headedness and fatigue.

Right pre-workout meal is the key

Balanced Diet Pie Chart

Just because you must eat something before your workout, doesn’t mean you can gorge on anything you like. Ideally a pre-workout meal should be light and easily digestible. Though the quantity of nutrients you may need will depend largely on your metabolism and body type, the key is to eat something that is low in fat, fibres and calories. A pre-workout meal that's equal parts fast-digesting carbs and protein is ideal to fuel your muscles and jumpstart muscle growth and repair.

While diet isn’t necessarily gender specific, sizes do vary for men and women. The same is true in case of pre-workout meal as well. Normally, it is essential to consume 0.1 g of protein and 0.2 g of carbs per pound of body weight. So, a normal 130 pound woman should ingest 13 g of protein and 26 g of carbs before workout to do strength training with proper intensity.

Another important factor that you must consider while choosing pre-workout meal is your weight goal. When your aim is to lose fat, then you can’t eat carbs before exercise as you will then only burn those carbs with training, not fat. So, if you are training to lose weight, stick to ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 of carbs: protein in your pre-workout meals. But, if your goal is gaining muscles, then you must follow the ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 of carbs: protein as glucose and amino acids in body will only aid the process of anabolic muscle building.

Best pre-workout meals

Here are the best foods you can eat before your workout:

  • One Banana - 105 calories, 27g carbs, 1g protein, 0.5 g fat. Eat a medium banana with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt 30 minutes before your workout.
  • Oats - 45 calories, 25g carbs, 6g protein, 2g fat. One cup of oatmeal before you exercise will keep you charged up for strenuous training.
  • Lentils - 290 calories, 40g carbs, 18g protein, 1 g fat. A cupful of lentils have perfect carb and protein ratio, making it an ideal pre-workout meal.
  • Others – 12 almonds, energy bars and fruit juice are other options that you can consider. Some gym goers, especially body builders, take a protein mix or supplement before workouts to kick start muscle repair, recovery, and growth.

Timing of pre-workout meal is also important

Normally pre-workout meals should be taken at least 45 minutes before you start your workout. This time will ensure that your meal is properly digested and is ready to give you energy. If you eat just before exercise, then your stomach will feel heavy and will prevent you from doing training properly. Also, make sure you are properly hydrated before you start working out. If you hit the gym early in the morning, drink some water immediately after you wake up.