How to Choose a Pre Workout Meal

Three Parts:Timing Your Meals With WorkoutsConsuming Beverages Before ExerciseOptimizing Caloric Intake Before Exercise

A great way to maximize your workout is to ensure you get the right nutrients before you exercise and afterward. Pre-workout food should be a balance of protein and carbohydrates, giving you energy for your workout and replenishing your muscles with protein as they burn calories. If you work out a moderate amount (30 minutes each day) and eat a balanced diet, you may be doing enough to keep your body well-nourished. If your workouts last longer, it is important to pay close attention to what, when, and how much you consume. This article will help you choose your pre-workout meals.

Part 1
Timing Your Meals With Workouts

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    Plan the size of your meal according to when you will workout. The less time you have until your workout, the less you should eat. Ideally, you want to have had fewer calories to eat than you intend to burn, thus burning excess fat during your workout.
    • This is a little tricky in the sense that burning fat during the workout has less to do with calories as it does with the type of calories consumed. For instance, if the body is given a large dose of carbohydrates pre-workout, it is less likely to tap into fat stores because the carbohydrates are so much easier to burn and use. It is better to have a combination of complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
    • If you intend to eat a large meal, make sure you eat three to four hours before the workout.
    • If you eat a small meal, you should eat two to three hours before working out.
    • If you are snacking, do so one to two hours in advance.
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    Eat breakfast one to two hours before you work out.[1] Make sure the breakfast you choose is full of protein and carbohydrates. A morning meal is important whether you workout in the morning or later in the day, but timing your breakfast to come at least one to two hours before your workout can help ensure that your blood sugar will not be too low, which can make you lightheaded or tired.
    • Good food choices at breakfast time include: an egg on high-protein toast, a rice cake covered in peanut butter, or a mix of whole grain cereal, low-fat milk, and a banana.
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    Eat lunch three to four hours before working out.[2] As with breakfast, choose a lunch that has a good balance of protein and carbohydrates. This is optimum for if you plan to workout in the afternoon. Do not forget sources of healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and oil.
    • A good option for a pre-workout lunch is a turkey sandwich made with 2 pieces of high-protein bread, 2 to 3 oz. of low-sodium turkey, lettuce or sprouts, tomato, and mustard. The bread and turkey give you protein, while the garnishes and bread provide carbohydrates.
    • Another option is a salad made with spinach, a chicken breast, low-fat dressing, tomatoes, and almonds. The chicken and almonds provide protein, while a salad with spinach provides both carbohydrates and protein.
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    Eat a small snack 30 minutes to an hour before you workout.[3] Eating a snack 30 minutes before you workout is generally a good idea if you haven't eaten recently. For example, if you ate lunch at noon and you plan to workout at 5pm, you should eat a small snack 30 minutes beforehand.
    • Good snack options include pretzels, smoothies, granola bars, or fruit. Some good choices for fruit include pineapple, banana, or watermelon.
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    Eat a protein- and carbohydrate-balanced dinner two to three hours before working out.[4] If you plan to workout in the evening, choose foods with lots of protein and carbohydrates. Good choices include a chicken breast and baked potato, fish and wild rice, or a roast beef wrap.
    • Do not forget to incorporate healthy fats. These are essential as they actually sustain the individual the longest and provide the longest satiety.
    • If you workout after dinner, make sure you do not intend to workout too close after eating or too close to bedtime. Evening workouts can inhibit some people's sleep patterns.

Part 2
Consuming Beverages Before Exercise

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    Drink water before working out. Drinking water before working out helps ensure you aren't dehydrated, which can inhibit your athletic performance. Dehydration can decrease athletic performance significantly—up to 25% just by losing two percent of your body weight in water.[5]
    • Drink 15 to 20 oz. (0.5 to 0.7 l) of water one to two hours before your workout.
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    Drink a cup of coffee before working out. Studies have shown that caffeine can positively boost your workout performance. Some of the benefits include improved circulation, less pain, muscle preservation, and more muscle fuel.[6]
    • Drink coffee 30 minutes to an hour before your workout. Start with 8 oz. of coffee and increase later if you find it helps. This is a great substitute to pre-workout supplements that are typically laden with artificial sweeteners and dyes. In addition, pre-workout supplements usually pack a high dose of caffeine that some individuals cannot tolerate. Coffee is typically well-tolerated and manageable.
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    Avoid sports drinks. While it is a good idea to drink water to ensure good hydration prior to exercise, it is not recommended that you replace water with sports drinks. This is because sports drinks have a lot of calories, which you are attempting to burn through exercise, so it is better not to add extra calories to your diet that counteract exercise unless you are working out for an extended period and need to replace electrolytes.[7]
    • One popular low calorie sports drink has 30 calories per 12 ounce serving, and the beverage comes in a 32oz. container, so you would be consuming close to 100 calories if you drank the whole bottle during your workout, thus canceling out, for instance, a one-mile run.

Part 3
Optimizing Caloric Intake Before Exercise

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    Eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight. If possible, try to burn 500 more calories than you eat each day. Do so and you should lose one to two pounds per week.[8]
    • One study showed that men and women burned close to 100 calories running one mile, so keep that in mind when you are totaling up the number of calories you'd need to burn to burn 500 per day beyond those you consume.
    • You do burn calories at rest, and if you figure out how many (what's called your "basal metabolic rate"), you can compare this to the calories you have consumed to determine how much exercise you need to burn 500 more than you've consumed.
    • By way of example, if your basal metabolic rate is 2500 calories and you consume 3000 calories in one day, you have 1000 calories to burn via exercise that day.
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    Speak to a doctor or nutritionist. If you are unsure about how to adjust your diet as you begin to think about optimizing your diet for exercise, speak to a doctor or nutritionist. Your doctor can ensure you are in good enough physical condition to begin an exercise regimen, and he or she can make diet suggestions as well. A doctor should be able to recommend a nutritionist as well. A nutritionist can help you determine your basal metabolic rate and give you guidelines for diet optimized for exercise.
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    Be aware of your body's needs. Pay attention to your body as you change your meals to better accommodate your workout. If you have any negative side effects, see a doctor or nutritionist to make sure you are not depriving yourself of necessary vitamins or nutrients. Remember that depriving the body of necessary nutrients and/or calories will not result in healthy weight loss that is possible to maintain long term


  • If you are hypoglycemic, always eat an hour to 30 minutes before you workout, or your blood sugar will be much too low to sustain a hard workout.
  • Eat a meal full of protein and carbohydrates within 2 hours after you workout in order to restore your glycogen stores and help your muscles to recover. When people talk about "hitting a wall," this is glycogen depletion.

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Categories: Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating