The Perfect Pre-Workout Meal: Eat before a workout?
“What is the perfect pre-workout meal? What should I eat before a workout?”
In fitness coaching, I am asked this question again and again, just like:
- “I train in the morning, so there’s not much time between breakfast and a workout. What can I eat before training?”
- “How long should I wait between my last meal and my workout?”
- “How much and when should I eat before training to avoid stomach problems?”
- “Should I eat anything before a workout?”
- “I want to lose fat. Isn’t a pre-workout meal counterproductive?”
Time for an article that provides you with answers to the most important questions about the so-called “pre-workout meal.”
Whether it’s muscle building, fat loss, or endurance training – this one is for you.
Why you should eat before training
A pre-workout meal is a complete meal you can eat 3 hours before your workout.
If you eat the right foods in the right amounts, you will benefit from the following advantages:
A pre-workout meal provides more energy during training.
If you fill up your glycogen stores – i.e., the energy stores in your body – before the workout, this can significantly increase your performance during training.
High-intensity training can become a real challenge for you, especially with a low-carb diet, in which the glycogen stores in the muscles and liver provide little fuel reserves: Glycogen is the energy source your body can convert most easily.
Of course, other factors besides glycogen stores affect your energy levels during exercise, including getting enough sleep and drinking enough, to name just two.
Eating before exercise helps avoid muscle breakdown.
If you train intensively, for example, with heavy weights, you bring your body into a catabolic, i.e., muscle-depleting, state.
In such a situation, your body can break down the muscle mass to generate energy.
A sensible pre-workout meal can prevent muscle breakdown and promote post-workout recovery.
Pre-workout snack leads to more muscle growth.
Protein, our body’s building block, should be an integral part of any pre-workout meal you prepare.
Perfectly supplied, amino acids are slowly released into your bloodstream during training, promoting muscle protein build-up.
While your body breaks down muscle structure during training, the bottom line is that you can build muscle and promote muscle growth – provided you have sufficient energy.
Be careful when losing weight!
While there are benefits to a pre-workout meal, you should be mindful of the amount of energy you consume when looking to lose fat.
Many people wonder why their body fat percentage does not drop despite training.
Often it’s because they eat after and before exercise and don’t factor their meals into their overall energy balance.
To reduce your body fat percentage, keep an eye on your energy intake – including a pre-workout meal.
What and when to eat before training
Good isn’t good enough for you. Want the perfect pre-workout meal?
You want to understand how quickly certain foods are digested so that you have the best possible supply of nutrients during training.
The timing, i.e., when you plan to eat before training, also plays a role.
Overview of the digestion speed:
- Fat: 6-8 hours,
- Protein: 3-4 hours,
- Carbohydrate (CH): 2-3 hours (depending on CH source)
After this period, the nutrients have reached our small intestine, where they are further digested, and our body absorbs the water from food.
It can take 24 hours to several days for the leftover food to leave our bodies.
You don’t need fully digested food to be energized for a good workout.
The Perfect Pre-Workout Meal: Composition
Since fat is the slowest to digest, you should eat a little of it before training.
A perfect workout meal is low-fat — cut back on fatty meats, fish, and oils.
A medium serving of meat (100-200 grams) or low-fat dairy products is a good choice, especially because they contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).
BCAAs are available during training, support muscle-building after training, and prevent muscle breakdown.
Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) are released into the blood slowly, ensuring a sustained energy supply during your workout.
The insulin released simultaneously increases the anabolic (= muscle-building) effect.
Perfect amount, perfect timing for your pre-workout meal
The crux of the matter is figuring out how much food you can eat before you exercise, which varies from person to person.
Some of us can still eat an entire meal an hour before a workout, while those blessed with sensitive stomachs need 3-4 hours between meals and workouts.
Recommendation for a man weighing about 80 kg:
- Amount of energy: about 600-800 kcal
- Timing: about 2-3 hours before training
Use these values as a starting point for your experiments.
You can vary the proportion of carbohydrates in your meal depending on your goals.
If you want to reduce fat, and eat fewer carbohydrates, if you are facing intense competition, you should increase the carbohydrate content of the meal before sport.
Okay, we have the theory. How about some delicious recipe ideas?
Pre-workout meal recipe ideas
The following meals are delicious and quick to prepare:
- Heat oat flakes in water/ low-fat milk and mix with protein powder.
- Prepare 2 whole eggs, 2 egg whites, peppers, onions, and low-fat cheese (e.g., as an omelet or salad). Serve with grapefruit or oatmeal.
- Wrap with poultry and salad/vegetables (you can add carbohydrates as needed).
- 150 g chicken breast with asparagus and sweet potatoes.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. 400 ml or more ensure that you can show full commitment afterward.
Sometimes even the best planning doesn’t help.
For those who train early in the morning and have little time between getting up and training, an apple spritzer and 5 grams of BCAA’s is a great way to get energy fast and avoid muscle breakdown.
Since I am also regularly asked for product recommendations for BCAA’s during coaching: I personally use this BCAA in tablet form.
Pre-Workout meal – Conclusion
I hope I’ve given you a few specific, actionable tips to help you create the perfect pre-workout meal for you. If you are short on time and want a fast answer – get Blackwolf’s pre-workout supplement. You have all proven ingredients at optimal amount inside, really great taste, and most importantly, you can sleep a little longer… pssssst!