What you eat and when you eat it can make all the difference to how you perform in the gym. It’s no good hitting the weights on an empty stomach because once your body has used up all the glycogen available it may start burning off hard-earned muscle to supply it with the extra energy it needs.
A lack of energy can also make it hard to train with the required intensity and will sap the muscles of power. Many bodybuilders—especially rookie bodybuilders— may have experienced days when they are unable to do the same number of reps as they did in a prior session, and/or feel too drained to give it their all. Admittedly such poor training sessions can be the result of a number of different problems, but in many cases it can be traced to a lack of correct nutrition.
Pre-workout nutrition is important is every bit as important as post-workout nutrition. Lifting weights is hard work, it takes energy; so it’s important to ensure that vital energy is available when it’s needed.
There are, of course, any number of pre-workout shakes and other supplements available, and some of them are pretty good. A few are excellent, but supplements are no the be all and end all when it comes to bodybuilding. Excellent results can be obtained by bodybuilders who eat the right foods at the right time and then put in the required work.
The Top Ten Pre-workout Snacks
- Fruity Yoghurt: Take a ¼ to ½ cup of low-fat yoghurt and toss in a handful of blueberries or strawberries to ensure a healthy mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and Vitamin C. It’s optional, but a handful of wholegrain cereal will provide an extra dose of complex carbs to ensure an ongoing supply of energy.
- Eggs and Toast: A couple of pre-workout soft boiled eggs will be a great protein provider and some whole meal toast, cut into strip, can provide complex carbs. So dipping a few soldiers is as good a way as any to ensure an ongoing energy supply is available to dip into when needed.
- Vegetarian Omelette (2 eggs): The eggs provide the protein again, but this time the complex carbs come courtesy of the vegetables. Tomatoes are good, as are onions (if your training partner does not object). A few peas or broad beans can provide further protein, and some red pepper can assist with fat burning, but most vegetables are fine—it’s all a matter of preference.
- Flapjack and Beetroot juice: The oats provide the complex carbs and the beetroot juice can boost nitrogen levels. Some studies show beetroot juice may also help ensure the muscles use up energy stores more slowly.
- Semolina Pudding: There’s no need to pull out the measuring jug and the scales, semolina from a tin is just fine and is a great provider of protein and complex and simple carbs. It can be eaten hot or cold—it doesn’t matter—and a handful of raisins or sultanas will provide a little extra nutritional value.
- Small mixed salad with eggs or tuna: Carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals—what more could a body need? But consider skipping the dressing. Mayonnaise is particularly bad—it’s usually around 75% fat.
- Banana Sandwich (wholemeal bread): Bananas are fantastic energy providers and sandwiching them between a couple of slices of wholemeal bread can further enhance the banana buzz.
- Pasta: Fancy a little pre-workout pasta? Good idea. A cupful should be enough and why not toss in a few prawns to provide a little extra protein.
- Wholegrain Crackers with Cottage Cheese: Not to everybody’s taste, but nutritionally it’s the business and should help you do the business in the gym. Throw over a little black pepper. It will add to the taste. Black pepper also contains an alkaloid called piperine that has proven fat burning abilities.
- Fruit and Whey Smoothie: Blend half a pint of milk with a scoop of whey and a handful of strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
Timing Is Everything
It’s never advised to train on a freshly-filled stomach, and it can take a little time for the digestive juices to get to work, so pre-workout snack and meals should be eaten half-an-hour to an hour before training is commenced. It allows the stomach a little time to settle and ensures an available supply of energy at the time when the body will need it the most.