Have you ever worked out after a big dinner? Urgh. You know the feeling we’re going to describe before we even type it.
What about on an empty stomach? For some, doing so puts you into a focused state - creating a lean, mean workout machine. For most, however, it makes you sluggish, lethargic and generally feeling like you lack energy in every area that counts.
Pre-workout nutrition is a complex issue, and knowing what to eat before the gym isn’t easy. Luckily, we know a thing or two about the topic and thought we’d share it with you. As a leading provider of some of the world’s tastiest pre and post-workout protein snacks, here’s what we know about pre-workout nutrition…
Should you eat before working out?
Eating before a workout is all about timing. Consuming a meal containing the right macronutrients (we’ll cover this in a moment) 2-3 hours before a workout is the best way to time your food. Your body takes about that long to digest food and send it to the small intestine. However, the time it takes varies depending on the actual nutrients in your food. Food high in protein, fibre and fat is slower to digest and should be timed accordingly.
A pre-workout snack like a protein flapjack, however, takes less time to digest and can be eaten an hour or even 30 minutes before training without any negative effects.
Why carbs are pre-workout magic
When you’re working out, your body uses glucose to fuel itself. Glucose is created by breaking down carbohydrates. If the body doesn’t need the energy, that glucose is stored as glycogen, which can be used during exercise or times of need.
Studies show that carbohydrate consumption increases glycogen stores and utilisation and boosts the way carbs are oxidised during exercise. It’s for these reasons you’ll hear of distance athletes ‘carb loading’ to max out their glycogen stores ahead of a big event.
It’s also a good reason to eat small meals with carbs in them before your workout. You’ll help boost your glucose availability without running the risk of feeling too sick, as a small carb snack shouldn’t overburden your digestion.
Remember, though, everyone’s body reacts differently. While studies favour small pre-workout carb snacks to fuel exercise, some people may suffer digestive issues.
It’s all about finding the right balance - but a small, easily digestible meal with carbohydrates in it timed 2-3 hours before a workout may be the perfect option. If you’ve got less time, a pre-workout snack like a protein flapjack or cookie is a great way to give yourself a little boost without the digestive burden.
Are pre-workout supplements worth it?
Pre-workout supplements come in many configurations - from simple energy boosters to full meal replacements designed to keep you going before your gym workout without having to prepare full meals.
Sadly, many pre-workout supplements aim mainly to increase your “energy” without paying much attention to your nutritional needs. For example, many are caffeine-based and help fuel alertness and focus - but they lack a way to deliver the carbohydrate energy we discussed earlier, which ensures your muscles have the glycogen required to power through.
Creatine, a popular sports nutrition supplement, has plenty of scientific evidence supporting it, which shows that it can help contribute to muscle growth, strength, and performance - but it also makes you carry more water weight, which is something to be aware of.
Ultimately, whether pre-workout supplements are worth it is all down to what you want them to do. If you need a pre-workout energy boost, a caffeinated powder like our own Suceed Energy Pre Workout can help supercharge your alertness. Alternatively, you could try a product like our Oats and Protein supplement a few hours before training as a way to pack in the protein as well as fuel your body’s carb and fibre supplies.
What’s the best thing to eat before the gym?
So now we know that eating before the gym can help fuel your performance - provided you choose the right combination of healthy carbs, protein and minimal fats. You also need to time the meal correctly, or you’ll end up feeling nauseous if you’re working out as your body is digesting.
We’d suggest a pre-workout protein snack before the gym in terms of the ‘best thing’ to eat. As they’re not as nutritionally dense as a full meal, you can eat them an hour or so before your workout for a little boost that adds more protein and carbs into your diet and helps fuel your performance.
But really, it’s totally up to you. You can find the right balance of carbs and/or energy boosts like caffeine to fuel your workouts without impairing your performance. Just avoid hitting the weight room right after you’ve had a Sunday Roast. That wouldn’t work out for anyone.