What to eat for before you train for energy, focus and drive
You may not think it, but what you eat before your workout has a profound effect on your performance in the gym. The common acceptance among many bodybuilders is oatmeal or “chicken and rice”. Now, for some, but very few, this is ok, if you’re Ronnie Coleman. For those with genetically abnormal metabolisms, they can eat what they like. For most people though, this has two problems. Number one is, most people are not sub 10% body fat, meaning you can’t see their abs. Eating carbs is not what the body needs and they should be saved for after the workout. Unless you’re doing endurance training, stay away from high-carb meals. Secondly, eating carbs pre-workout makes most people lose focus. Carbs release the ‘feel good’ hormone serotonin, which makes you feel relaxed and settled. Pre-workout, you want to be raring to go. Furthermore, you may feel an initial energy rise from eating carbs, but this will soon fade and be replaced by a more relaxed, tired feeling, and an energy crash during your training.
This would result in a lack of concentration, focus and ultimately, lack of results whether its muscle –gains or fat loss.
To clear things up, we’re talking about an actual meal, not some fizzy energy boosting, muscle-killing soda. So this begs the question, what do I eat?
A pre-workout meal is ideally eaten at least one hour before training.
What to eat
The most important nutrient pre-workout is protein. Protein will be released into your muscles while you train. Protein also increases awareness and raises focus. Especially red meat, which cause the body to release energy-boosting neurotransmitters. Protein also doesn’t raise insulin like carbs do, which ensures a steady supply of energy while you train.
The other nutrient you can add is fat. Now depending on your goals, you may or may not need to consume fat. IF fat loss is your main goal, it should be kept to a minimum. The reason for this is because your post workout shake/meal is probably going to contain carbs, which will spike you insulin and store whatever is in your bloodstream, in this case its fat. That said, if you don’t have carbs in your post-workout shake meal, then fats pre-workout are a good option. If muscle-building is your priority, fats should also be in the pre-workout meal, but again, don’t go over the top, especially if you’re consuming high GI carbs pre-workout.
Fats will slow down the insulin response of your meal. They’ll slow down digestion and provide more energy than say, a standard protein shake. Fats will also make the meal tastier! The key with this is you have to assess your gaols, your energy levels and determine yourself whether you need them or not.
The best fats to consume are coconut oil, nuts and seeds. These, especially coconut oil, contain fats that are most unlikely to get stored on your waistline. It goes without saying that poor quality fats such as vegetable oil and sunflower oils should be avoided.
Here are some examples of ideal pre-workout meals:
- Steak and a handful of nuts
- Chicken and green veg
- Apple and almond butter (An ideal quick snack if you don’t have the time to prepare a meal)
- Turkey strips lightly fried in coconut oil, with spinach
- Lean fish with avocado
As you can see there are many combinations and you should use these as guidelines to help you come up with an ideal pre-workout meal to suit you. Be creative and remember that eating good food should be boring!
A final tip
For an all-natural energy boosting beverage, drink green tea or coffee. These both contain caffeine, which will increase alertness & focus. There are also many herbal remedies that you can try such as ginseng, gingko bilboa and gotu kola. Experiment with different drinks and find one that works for you. Just remember, if you’re going for green tea or coffee, then organic are so much more nutritious.
Now go and smash that workout!