(Article was originally written in 2015 but has been updated)
The key to having phenomenal workouts is definitely not an overpriced and non-effective “pre-workout” powder.
The worst feeling in a lifter or trainees fitness journey is to train hard and frequently but then see an absolute lack of changes to your physique or with your performances.
Obviously, a person who dogs it during their workouts, who is highly inconsistent with their training frequency, and who constantly blames everything or everyone else for their lack of progress will never get anywhere when it comes to being leaner, stronger, and healthier.
But when you are performing tough workouts and you are consistent, your body should respond favorably. For many folks, however, this is not the case.
Training is only one-third of the battle. Recovery takes up another third and nutrition makes up the other third.
Whether you are trying to build muscle mass, drop unwanted body fat, or increase your performance in the gym, your nutrition matters. If your nutrition is lackluster then your results will also be lackluster.
It is not just about eating “healthy.” It is about the quality and quantity of food you consume at a given time.
For anyone who trains for real, the most important meals of your day are the pre and post-workout meal. These meals give you the ability to have great workouts and recover properly.
I have known people who show up to a real training session with zero fuel in the system.
The result is predictable: an extremely uninspiring workout usually ending with the lifter or trainee feeling lightheaded.
When you skimp on that pre-workout meal, you can kiss that goal of building your dream body goodbye. You will be stuck in neutral and going nowhere fast.
The pre-workout meal has so much value as it sets the tone for the upcoming training session. Without the proper fuel to use for training, your body simply cannot perform at an optimal level.
Giving weak, despicable effort through the workout vs. training hard and making progress within that workout are two different animals.
The folks who dog it vs. the ones who don’t end up with two completely different physiques.
This lack of nutrition is what leads to minimal progress and frustration with your training. This list below can give you some food options for what you should eat before you workout.
I consistently use all of these options.
Oats and Eggs
Whole Grain English Muffin, Natural Peanut Butter, Banana and Egg Whites/Yolk
Whole Grain Toast, Uncured Turkey Bacon, and Eggs
Egg White/Yolk Omelet (green peppers, tomatoes, lean ground beef) and Whole Grain Toast
Dog Food (Brown Rice, Lean Ground Turkey, Mixed Peppers, and Natural Tomato Sauce)
Chicken Breast, Brown Rice, and Broccoli
Sockeye Salmon, Sweet Potatoes (without the butter and added sugar!) and Green Beans
Lean Ground Bison Burger on a Whole Grain Bun and Spinach
All of these meals have a good amount of carbohydrates as muscle glycogen (from the carbs) is the main fuel source for high-intensity workouts like sprinting and heavy lifting.
Having carbs before your workout will prevent you from prematurely running out of gas during your workout.
We also have good amounts of protein to increase the amount of muscle you can build and to minimize muscular damage from the workout.
Your fats are not high during these meals because your body does not use fat as fuel during high-intensity workouts like sprinting and heavy lifting. There is no need to load up extra, unusable energy if you do not need it.
The amount of food you eat will vary based on your metabolic rate and whether your goals are athletic performance, fat loss, or muscle growth.
I had horrendous pre-workout meal etiquette in college and at the very beginning of my career in fitness.
It showed through my lame performances on the track. I also looked like a human scarecrow.
Once I put the emphasis on proper pre-workout nutrition, I have never had a bad workout due to lame meal preparation.
My physique and performance have seen continual progress over the years. This is why the pre-workout meal is the most important meal of your day if you are training on that day.
For most people eating this meal 1.5-2.5 hours before the workout is a good time to consume it but again this will also vary based on your metabolic rate and your current activity level.
Showing up to a training session with a full stomach is another way to not finish your workout and you will more than likely yak it up in the dirt.
Prioritize the pre-workout meal and your body will reward you with consistently great performances, more muscle, and less body fat. Who does not want that?
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,
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