As those immortal words of Muhammad Ali once said:
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights”.
Now I am in no position to pick up the man that’s known as ‘The Greatest’ on anything to do with performance and training….however, one thing I couldn’t help but notice he missed was the time spent in the kitchen! OK, no doubt Ali had his own Dietitian, chef and personal assistant allowing him to focus on nothing else but dancing in that ring, but for us mere mortals, the nutritional side of things fall on our laps! This part of our fitness and training regimens can be extremely rewarding though, the structure and discipline it demands yields clarity of mind, improved focus, and better results in the gym or out on the playing field.
Getting the nutritional side of things right is important at every stage of your training, what you consume before, during and after will determine the extent your physique/figure and performance develops! In this article we focus on pre- workout foods and supplements, a key element of training that is often overlooked. There are several repercussions of not fuelling properly for your session ranging from reduced energy levels, elevated muscle catabolism (breakdown), and reduced muscle pumps and adaptation. Timing is vital, a meal that is consumed too soon e.g. 3-4 hours before training will result in the energy and amino’s being released too soon, meaning you are training on depleted glycogen stores and a drained amino acid pool. Consuming your food too late e.g. anytime under approx 40-50mins before your session will result in your blood supply being preferentially shunted to your stomach and digestive tract, meaning your muscles receive less nutrients (protein, carbs and electrolytes) and less oxygen, resulting in reduced energy, muscle pumps and diminished contractility…not to mention you run the risk of chundering in front of everyone!
What You Should and Shouldn’t Eat and Drink?
An ideal pre-workout meal/snack should consist of a protein source, some low GI carbs (slow release), and a source of healthy fat such as peanut butter or an omega oil to moderate the release of all these nutrients. High GI (quick release) carbs are not so ideal, the consumption of these results in a blood sugar surge and insulin spike meaning you absorb all of the energy rapidly into the muscles resulting in low blood sugars, known as the ‘low’. This is great for a quick surge of energy, but the resulting drop in blood sugar levels leaves you feeling low and drained immediately after, mid way through your session!! So if you plan to exercise for any longer than 30mins, consume a low GI carb instead!
My Personal Pre-workout Meal/Snack Choices
Try rolling chicken and hummus inside a lettuce leaf for a convenient, quick protein punch with moderate to low GI carbs in the form of the salad and chick pea hummus
Another idea is a delicious protein pancake:
Ingredients (4 medium pancakes)
• 1 mashed banana
• 2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)
• 1 scoop of protein
• 1/3 cup oatmeal
• 1 Tbsp. natural peanut butter
• 1 Tbsp. Honey
• In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together in the order listed above
• Heat a little bit of oil (you can use cooking spray) in a non-stick pan
• Once your pan is hot (use medium heat), separate 4 portions (2 tbsp. each) of your batter into the pan
• After one minute, or when the pancakes start to bubble and turn golden, flip them over for another 30 seconds and you are almost done
The eggs and protein powder delivers the amino building blocks, and the monunsaturated fat in the peanut butter combined with the low and moderate GI carbs of the oats and banana respectively, has the cement covered.
Pre-workout meals can be as extravagant or plain as you so wish, the fundamental principle is to get your slow release carbs, clean source of protein (free from excess fat and salt etc), and a mono/polyunsaturated fat source, and not to consume it any later than 50mins prior to your workout. The only exception to this rule would be a liquid source of nutrition such as a protein shake which you should consume approx 30-45 mins prior to your workout, but always try to get some good wholesome food into you when you can. If you weren’t having pre-workout meals before, then once you start, we think you’ll see your gains rocket!