Pre-Workout Nutrition For Better Performance

When it comes to optimal training performance and strength outcomes there are a few key things to consider.

It’s without a doubt that having an effectively periodised and goal specific training program is the foundation, along with sound nutrition to support the training, and recovery methods to allow for repeated efforts towards adaptation and well ultimately; gains.

There are also finer details and considerations to be made within your approach, which are often overlooked but may actually play a big part in the outcome, and one of those in my opinion is the setup of the pre-workout meal.

We often say that meal timing and frequency play only a very small role in the grand scheme of things, but it’s significance is magnified at specific times, where the outcome of training efforts can be maximised or held back, essentially depending on how you fuel your body.

Ever had a large salad and then felt like training? Or maybe had a burger and fries in the lead up to some heavy squats? If you haven’t, you might want to give it a go… and quickly experience for yourself a less than energised or exciting training session.

It is common knowledge that a high fat meal pre-workout won’t provide a solid dose of quality energy towards weight training. In addition consuming higher fibre foods can have a similar outcome, essentially slowing down the rate of digestion and not efficiently fuelling the body to perform at it’s best.

With that in mind, I would suggest keeping both fat and fibre intake low in the meal prior to your weight training session. To put things into better perspective, that might be a meal which is consumed anywhere from one to three hours before you train.

Now is the time a lot of people might stop to think about those oats they’re consuming pre-workout. High in carbohydrate but also high in fibre and does contain some fat too. Honestly I would remove them. I’ve done oats pre-workout in many different ways – even to the point of grinding them into a thin powder to get it down easier. At the end of the day, the macronutrient composition doesn’t change.

So what would I consider to be an ideal approach to the pre-workout meal? How about I map it out for you.

Some of my key goals for pre-workout nutrition include:

  • High amino acid availability
  • Fast acting useable energy
  • Low digestive stress
  • Adequate hydration and electrolyte balance
  • Increased mental focus and stimulation

To achieve this we want to be thinking about consuming foods which are easily digestible and don’t cause bloating or excessive inflammation. For some people there’s a tolerance consideration but it might mean having a standard meal like chicken and rice, or maybe a protein shake with a mix of fruits.

For me personally I like to rely more on liquid based nutrition, which also helps to cover the goal of adequate hydration. This can also depend on the time that I’m training. If it’s first thing in the morning then liquid based definitely wins. Later in the day, maybe I’ll lean more towards a liquid & solid food source, like a protein shake and rice crackers.

Whichever foods are your preference, when you really nail your pre-workout nutrition and create a ritual or consistent protocol you can really feel the difference both psychologically and physiologically towards bringing out your inner beast in the gym. Eat a few doughnuts or chocolate bars before a workout and you’re a sluggish mess. Trust me, I’ve tried it!

So let’s start talking numbers. I have a systemised approach to my pre-workout nutrition, which really makes all the difference for me, and might do the same for you. Now when we’re talking numbers in way of how many grams of carbs to consume or how much caffeine is sufficient, individualisation really comes into play. Nonethless, consider this a solid starting point, or some structure you can try, and maybe build on. With that in mind, I’m going to give you my minimums.

90 mins pre-workout:

  • Minimum 0.4g of protein per KG of body weight
  • Minimum 0.6g of low-fibre carbs per KG of body weight

45 mins pre-workout:

  • Minimum 0.4g liquid based carbs per KG of body weight
  • Minimum 3mg of caffeine per KG of body weight
  • Minimum 3g of creatine monohydrate

Now I’m going to put it out there right away that the creatine is included here for convenience and consistency, whereas it could quite easily be consumed at anytime of the day with equal benefits. If I’m not throwing it in pre-workout I’m having it with my breakfast. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t left out here, because if you aren’t supplementing with creatine right now you’re already holding yourself back from improved performance.

With the above structure in mind I like to have 45-60g of whey protein isolate along with 80-100g of rice crackers to provide a solid dose of protein and carbs. Remember the numbers I’ve listed are my minimums, and not set in stone.

If I’m not feeling the rice crackers or prefer to keep things straight liquid, I’ll swap them out for sorbet and enjoy a high-protein mango smoothie.

Following up the whey protein and rice crackers, closer to my training session I’ll have a blend of Staminade powder (or Gatorade) with a solid dose of caffeine and creatine thrown in if I haven’t already had it earlier in the day.

With this approach to my pre-workout nutrition what have I achieved? The simple answer is: everything I set out to prioritise.

  • High amino acid availability
  • Fast acting useable energy
  • Low digestive stress
  • Adequate hydration and electrolyte balance
  • Increased mental focus and stimulation

So if your excitement towards training is lacking or you feel like you aren’t going all in when it comes to putting in your best efforts, give my protocol a try and see how you go.

If you feel like you might benefit from not only improving your pre-workout nutrition but your approach to nutrition as a whole, along with effective training strategies, let’s work together to get you where you need to be.

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