Working out on an empty stomach is a major mistake. To make the most of your workouts, you've likely added a pre-workout meal or snack, which is exactly what you should do! To help you succeed, we have compiled a list of 8 ways to improve your pre-workout meals. This list will also provide you with pre-workout meal tips and tricks to make life easier and healthier with more successful workouts!
1. Timing is Everything
For your body to get the most out of what you eat, try to time your pre-workout meal 30-45 minutes before your workout. If let the clock tick away, and you wait too long your body could store the food you just ate as fat instead of ready useable fuel, which is the whole point of a pre-workout meal.
2. Inspect Your Ingredients
The reality is, not all food's created equal. Many foods that appear healthy from a quick glance actually contain high amounts of unsuspected sodium, sugar, and fat. Of course, some fats like Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy; but avoid eating anything that contains saturated fats or trans-fats. Also keep in mind that pre-packaged foods often contain chemical preservatives, which are unhealthy and hard for your body to digest and filter out.
3. Fresh is Best
Fresh foods are far and clear healthier than most anything eaten from out of a package. Go one step further to improve your pre-workout meal: buy food that's certified organic, which implies no chemical fertilizers, hormones, or harmful preservatives were used in the farming or handling process before you bought the good from the store.
4. Tips for Buying Produce
Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients immediately after harvest. Though the fruits and veggies are fine enough once they hit the store, it’s still a bad idea to buy and then store them for more than a couple days. Multiple trips to the market seems inconvenient enough, but from a health perspective the slight inconvenience makes for a well warranted measure.
The ideal pre workout meal contains a majority of carbohydrates mixed with a low fat protein. Too many carbs and your body will store the excess as fat. Not enough carbs and you'll run on fumes in no time. Too little protein and your body will retreat to your lean muscle mass for energy, which will result in fatigue, muscle loss, and weakness. For example: a sliced apple with a bit of all natural peanut butter, and a handful of granola tossed on top would be perfect.
6. Meal vs. Shakes
A pre-workout meal is just as effective consumed through a straw. Fresh and healthy smoothies or protein shakes made with fruit work well long as they contain sufficient amounts of carbs and proteins. For some people, it's easier on their digestive systems to drink liquids before a workout in place of solid food.
7. Flax Seed
Flax seed's a buzzword among fitness and nutrition buffs these days; but did you know that in order to enjoy the nutrients from flax it must be ground up first? Sprinkling flax seed over a salad, or mixing into a bowl of oatmeal is mere decoration–a way to spruce a pic so that it's insta-worthy of 100 likes. If you want to get the most out of flax, grind it into a meal before adding it to your food. Flax contains alpha linolenic acid (ALA) known for its antioxidant properties, as well as high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids. Unlike other foods, ground flax doesn’t lose its nutritional value when cooked. You can make bread, muffins, even pasta with ground flax – all of which are excellent candidates for pre-workout meals!
8. Add Chocolate!
And the crowds of sweet-toothed, wild eyed fans rejoiced! Studies show that people who eat small amounts of chocolate twice a week, on average weigh less than the not so savvy for chocolate folks. The polyphenols in chocolate spur a faster metabolism. We'll add that people who enjoy reasonable portioned amounts of chocolate don’t feel deprived and therefore don’t binge eat as a coping mechanism. For the ultimate pre-workout meal, try making a bowl of oatmeal with banana slices, and top it all off with shaved dark chocolate. Delicious and nutritious!
Pre-workout meals don’t have to be boring. There are plenty of options to choose from that are healthy. There are plenty of ingredients that will both nourish and energize you for your workouts! There are even recipe books available that contain fields of recipes and helpful nutritional content breakdowns for pre-workout meals and snacks. The better informed you are, the more effective your pre-workout meals will be!