Athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance and achieve their physical goals. Although there are several mechanisms to achieve this, such as taking supplements and carrying a specific training style or techniques, good nutrition can help the body to function better and recover faster after each session.
Optimal nutrient intake before exercise will not only help maximize performance but also minimize muscle damage and promote recovery. In this way, knowing what to eat is a fundamental aspect if you want to perform more and obtain the desired results.
Discover the definitive pre-workout nutrition guide that you should consider if you really want to reach your fitness goals.
Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout; however, the relationship in which you must consume each one varies according to the person and the type of exercise.
The role that each macronutrient must play is the following:
Your muscles use the glucose of carbohydrates as fuel. The glycogen is how the body processes and stores glucose, mainly in the liver and muscles.
For low and high intensity exercise, glycogen stores are the main source of muscle energy. But, for longer exercises, the degree to which carbohydrates are used depends on several factors, such as intensity, type of training and diet in general.
The glycogen reserves of your muscles are limited. As you run out, your production and intensity decrease. In this sense, studies have shown that carbohydrates can increase the reserves and the use of glycogen while increasing the oxidation of carbohydrates during exercise.
Many studies have documented the potential of protein consumption before training to improve athletic performance. It has been shown that eating protein (alone or with carbohydrates) before exercise increases the synthesis of muscle protein. For example, one study showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 g of whey protein before exercise.
Other benefits of eating protein before training include:
While glycogen is used for short to high intensity exercise sessions, fat is the fuel source for moderate to low intensity exercise.
Some studies have investigated the effects of fat consumption on sports performance. However, these studies analyzed high-fat diets over a prolonged period, rather than before exercise. For example, it was demonstrated how a four-week diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance run time in healthy and trained runners.
The timing of the meal is also an important aspect of nutrition before exercise. To maximize training results, try to eat a full meal containing carbohydrates, protein and fat at least 2-3 hours before exercising. However, in some cases you may not be able to get a full meal for 2 to 3 hours before training. In that case, you can eat a light meal before training. Keep in mind that the sooner you eat before training, the smaller and simpler the food should be.
If you consume food 45 to 60 minutes before training, choose those that are easy to digest and contain mainly carbohydrates and some protein. This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.
What foods and how much to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of the training. A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbohydrates and proteins before exercise. If you consume fat in the pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before training.
We show you some examples of balanced meals before training:
For better results, experiment with different times and nutrient compositions.
The use of supplements is common in sports. These products can improve performance, strength, increase lean body mass and reduce fatigue. Some of the best pre-workout supplements are the following:
It is probably the most commonly used sports supplement. It has been shown to increase muscle mass, muscle fiber size and strength.
Although it is beneficial to take creatine before a workout, it seems to be more effective when taken after a workout.
Among many other benefits, it has been shown that caffeine improves performance, increases strength and potency, helps reduce the sensation of fatigue and stimulates fat burning.
The effects of caffeine are observed 90 minutes after consumption; however, it is said to be effective even when swallowed 15-60 minutes before exercise.
The BCAAs refer to the essential amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine. Studies have shown that taking BCAAs before training decreases muscle damage and increases muscle protein synthesis.
The beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases the muscle stores of carnosine. It has been shown to be more effective for high and short intensity exercise, as it increases exercise capacity and muscular endurance, while reducing fatigue.
Hydration is also crucial, and the body needs water to function. It has been shown that good hydration maintains and even improves performance, while dehydration has been linked to a significant decrease in performance.
It is recommended to consume water and sodium before exercise; this will improve the electrolyte balance. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking at least half a liter of water 4 hours before exercise and ¼ liter of water 10-15 minutes before exercise. In addition, they recommend consuming a beverage that contains sodium to help retain fluids.
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