Going to the gym on an empty stomach is a recipe for one thing – a hangry fitness girl. Trying to work out when you’ve got hunger pangs is like trying to drive your car without any fuel in the tank, you’re not going to get anywhere fast. That’s where your pre-workout meal comes in.
We know how it feels. When you haven’t had time to meal prep or you’re eating loads but still feel sluggish at the gym. If this happens on the regular for you, you need to get your nutrition on point.
Whether you’re stuck for inspiration or not quite sure what you should be eating to get the most out of your session, we’ve got the T on all things pre-workout nutrition.
From the macros you should be eating to hints and tips on timing, we’ve got your covered for an energized gym performance, that reaps rewards.
Why do you need a pre-workout meal?
Ever heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”? Food is the backbone of your fitness journey. If you don’t get it right, you could end up floundering. Your workouts could suffer and you won’t make the gains you’ve dreamed of.
Lifting weights and building booty is hard work, and your body needs all the support it can get. If you head to the gym without the right foods to keep you going, you’ll feel sluggish, your lifts will feel much harder and you won’t be able to fulfill your true potential. Aint nobody got time for that.
Food has the power to energize your body for a killer workout. It doesn’t end there. You can also stock up on the essentials nutrients you need to improve the way your body processes protein and builds muscle. Perfect for improving those booty gains.
With the right combination of your macro-nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fats, you can give your body the boost it needs for an amazing weights session.
What you need to know about pre-workout nutrition
To tackle pre-workout meals, you need to know about your macros and what they can do for your body.
These are your main fuel. When you consume carbs your body will convert them into energy that you can burn in a workout. There are different types of carbohydrates that function in different ways.
- Complex carbohydrates. A complex carbohydrate consists of sugar molecules in long, complex chains. These carbs are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fibers. They’re usually found in whole grains, vegetables, and beans and are converted into glucose in the body, which is used as energy. These carbs produce energy slowly and don’t cause your blood sugar levels to rise quickly. These babies are called slow-release carbs.
- Simple carbohydrates. This version is made of much smaller chains and is very quickly absorbed into the body causing your blood sugar levels to spike. These can be found in refined sugars and processed food. Because they release energy so quickly they’re called fast-release carbs.
To get the most out of your workout, your slow release carbs are the best option. They’re full of nutrients and will help you maintain a steady level of energy throughout your session so you feel fuelled and ready to slay.
This food is the building blocks for muscle growth. Lifting weights damages your muscles so they come back bigger and better, ready to handle the stress you put them under. Protein is the essential ingredient that helps your body repair after all that work. You can find large amounts of protein in meats, eggs and, if you need a little help upping your intake, there are plenty of quality protein supplements on the market.
Adding protein to your pre-workout can actually improve protein synthesis – which means your body will work more efficiently to create muscle mass after your workout. That means shorter recovery times, less pain after a smoking hot workout and more muscle gains (woo!).
This is an essential part of your macros, but it’s not always the best thing to eat before you head to the gym. Although they do convert into glycogen for energy, fats take a longer time to be processed by your body, so they can sit in your stomach as you work out. Not what you want during a lifting session.
Here’s what you should be eating…
When it comes to eating before you work out you should aim to include a mixture of carbohydrates and protein.
The carbohydrates will give your body the energy it needs to tackle the intensity of your workout. Although complex carbs are more nutritious and would work perfectly for a sustained session, a refined carb also has its benefits. If you’re in need of a short sharp energy boost before a hardcore legs day, look no further than your simple carbohydrates.
Working alongside that, you should enjoy a healthy serving of protein before you get started. It will help to increase protein synthesis, aiding the muscle repair process so it works more effectively and efficiently.
When to eat your pre-workout meal
If it’s prep day and you’re planning your meals around your workouts, the first thing to think about is timing. You might have the opportunity to eat a few hours before your workout, or you might have just an hour, so you need to adapt your meal to the situation.
Ideally, you should aim to eat a full, balanced meal between 2-3 hours before you head to the gym. In this case, you should be looking at a pre-workout meal with plenty of slow release carbs and protein included. This way you will have enough energy in the tank to get the job done, and the protein will give your strength and recovery an edge.
However, sometimes it’s not always possible to perfect your food timing, especially if you spend your day at work in an office. If you’re about an hour away from your workout and the hanger-pangs start to kick in, a carb-heavy snack is a good way to curb the rage and power up your body for an effective session.
If you’re literally heading through the door of the gym, you should mix up the type of carbs you’re taking on. Opt for a simple carb for a quick energy boost. This won’t last long, so make sure you ride the wave and get the most out of that spike. For a fast burning, nutritious option, go for a banana over a more processed option – they’re empty carbs.
Pre-workout meal ideas
To help you gym babes out, we’ve gone ahead and come up with some pre-workout meal ideas. No need to thank us – we got you.
If you’re lacking inspiration for your meal prep, we’ve got you covered with some example meals you can enjoy at different points in the day. Each one is packed with all the right nutrition for an amazing workout and muscle building results.
Pre-workout meal – 2-3 hours before the gym
- 160 g lightly seasoned chicken breast
- 200g wholegrain rice
- Assorted green veg
Cook and season your chicken to your tastes for a delicious, well-balanced meal. The wholegrain rice provides a healthy portion of slow release carbs to fill you up and keep your energy levels high for your workout.
Pre-workout meal – 1 hour before the gym
- One serving of protein
- 30g of oats
Mix your favorite protein powder into your normal bowl of porridge oats for a protein charged pre-workout meal. This is easy to make in the microwave at work, or you can even mix protein powder into overnight oats as part of your prep. This slow release meal is perfect for a carb and protein kick and it’s super easy to prepare. Pre-workout – done.
Pre-workout meal – as you’re going into the gym
- Half a wholegrain bagel
Slice up your banana and enjoy it on one half of a wholegrain bagel. This carb-heavy snack is a great way to give your body the quick boost it needs to tackle any workout. If you’re worried about improving your protein intake, take a shake straight after you finish your workout to maximize your gains and kickstart recovery.
Once you’ve got your pre-workout meals nailed, you’ll have everything you need to take your workouts to the next level. No more struggling to hit your squat set or slogging through your cardio. You’ll be full of energy to push your body to the max in every workout, achieve new personal bests and put on booty shaping muscle.
You may have cracked the food, but there’s another way to power your body to bring your all in a workout. A high-quality pre-workout can give you the edge to push your weights session into a whole new realm of slay.
Find out more about what you should and shouldn’t be eating to get the best out of your body in the gym: