Pre-Workout Nutrition: What, When, and Why

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We’ve all been there before in the middle of a workout and we have that Anchorman moment when we think to ourselves, “milk was a bad choice!” Insert any poor pre-workout nutrition choice in place of milk and you get the point. (If you don’t understand this reference then you need some Ron Burgundy in your life ASAP.) It doesn’t take long for us to realize that what you eat before your workout can and will positively or negatively affect your performance and energy through a workout. But what exactly should you eat to fuel your body for the training ahead? Below are a few tips to help you feel great during your next workout and set a new PR!

  1. Pre-Workout meals should be higher in carbohydrates and moderate in protein. This could look like chicken and brown rice, two eggs with veggies and oatmeal, Turkey sandwich with a banana, salad with grilled chicken and an apple, or even a fuel for fire if you’re in a pinch. The higher carbohydrates around your workout will give you a boost in energy, and your body will use that energy as fuel instead of storing it. Fat slows down the digestion and absorption of nutrients, so at a time when we want energy quickly and readily available, save higher fat foods like avocados or nut butters for later.

  2. Choose your pre-workout nutrition based on the workout of the day. If the day’s session is a shorter skill based piece then stick to fruits and vegetables as your main carb source, and hold off on the whole grain or starchy carbohydrates. If the workout has a strength piece followed by a 5-15 minute metcon, then think about adding a bit more carbohydrates in the form of whole grains to your pre workout meal. And finally, if the workout is 20+ minutes then be sure to bump up your pre-workout carb intake in the form of fruit and whole grains, as your body will use that energy for fuel!

  3. Think about when you are working out. If you workout in the 5:30am class, try eating a piece of fruit like an apple or a banana before your workout. It takes just a few extra minutes in the morning but your body will thank you in the middle of the WOD. If you workout at 8:30am or noon, make sure you get a good complete breakfast of protein, carbs (oatmeal or fruit are a great option), and some fat. Finally, if you workout in the evening be sure to have a balanced lunch and have a piece of fruit ready to eat on your way to the gym to help combat the afternoon energy slump (cuties are my go to here).

Of course, every individual is different when it comes to nutrition and the best way to find out what works for you is to try different foods and nutrient timing and take note of how you feel and perform. Use the strategies above to help fuel your next workout and talk to a coach if you have any questions about what to eat to help you look and feel your best!