Whether you’re heading to the gym for an intense weightlifting session, looking to fuel a long treadmill run, or have a HIIT class you need to smash, one thing’s for certain – you’ve got to nail your pre-gym nutrition. Knowing what to eat before and after the gym is one of the best ways to ensure that you have plenty of energy to get the most out of your workout.
You should always eat something before your workout – exercising on an empty stomach won’t help with calorie burning (in fact it might hinder it) – and consuming a pre-workout snack ensures that both your blood and muscle glucose levels are maintained (meaning your body won’t break down your muscles for energy). Nailing your gym nutrition also helps to boost your recovery days and minimise muscle damage. This article will outline just how to improve your gym nutrition, helping you to answer the question of just what you should eat before hitting the gym.
When should you eat before the gym?
It’s a well-known fact that your intake of carbohydrates and protein is essential to workout performance, but research also indicates that the timings of your pre-gym meals are just as important as what you’re actually eating. According to this research, the key periods for pre workout meals are in the 2-4 hours and the 30-60 minutes before your workout.
Remember, you don’t want to be eating a big pre workout meal right before you hit the gym, otherwise you might experience an upset stomach. When you’re exercising, your blood goes to your muscles and is diverted away from digestion. Therefore, if you eat too close to the start of your workout, you may experience some discomfort.
Sports nutrition tips
It’s a good idea to get heavy carbohydrates in four hours before your exercise to give your digestive system enough time to break down the glucose content and send it to your muscles. You can follow this up with a carbohydrate-rich small snack in the 30-90 minutes before you exercise. Try out a protein-packed nutrition bar, protein shake, banana, or small portion of Greek yoghurt and fruit. This is the ideal option if you’ve got an early workout planned, as it allows you to get some energy into your system without overloading it beforehand.
The takeaway for when to eat before the gym:
- 2+ hours before – stick to low-GI carbohydrates and proteins.
- 30 mins before – stick to light snacks with simple carbohydrates and some protein.
What should you eat before hitting the gym?
When it comes to mastering gym nutrition, nailing your consumption of carbohydrates and protein is essential. That said, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, so it’s a good idea to try out different options and see what best suits you.
Bear in mind that the amount and type of exercise you do will also impact the best gym nutrition for you. Individuals who exercise heavily and consistently will need more carbohydrates than, for example, those who exercise less often and rely on less cardiovascular workouts.
Always remember to hydrate throughout your workout as well as after. Ensuring that you consume enough water is as important as your gym nutrition to your workout’s success.
Carbohydrates are an essential part of any gym nutrition plan, but they’re particularly important if you’ve got an energy-intensive workout planned, like a long run or cycle. If you don’t provide your body with the glucose and essential amino acids that it needs both before and during these intensive workouts, it will cause muscle breakdown in order to provide necessary fuel.
Carbohydrate-rich pre-workout snacks
- Toast (preferably whole grain bread) with peanut butter and jam. Not only does this contain the essential combination of carbs, fat, and protein, this will give you the energy needed to smash your workout.
- Chocolate milk. You’re nailing your carbs, protein, and fluids with this option – plus it’s delicious.
- Porridge made with low fat milk or almond milk and fruit. Oats are digested slower than other carbohydrates, meaning you’ll have a steadier blood sugar level.
Incorporating protein into your gym nutrition pre-workout has many benefits- from improving muscle performance and recovery to increasing muscle growth.
If you’re heading to the gym for a strength workout, getting your carbs in is important, but it’s also essential to consume protein. Protein helps with building the muscle mass and strength you’re looking for and will speed up the repair of micro-muscle tears caused during strength sessions.
Protein-rich pre-workout snacks
- Banana and Greek yoghurt. Avoid ‘fat free’ yoghurt options as they’ll have added sugar. Banana (or other fruits like apples) are easily digestible and boost blood sugar levels – plus bananas contain potassium, which may help reduce muscle cramps.
- Protein-rich nutrition bar. Oat-based options are best. Look for those fortified with nutrients like iron.
- Fruit and yoghurt smoothie. Make your own (store-bought options tend to contain excessive sugar) by combining protein-rich yoghurt with fruit and even protein powder for an added boost.
- Protein shakes or a sports drink. Great for getting a big amount of protein and energy in one easy drink.
In the two to three hours leading up to your gym workout, you could also help to support your body’s production of amino acids and glucose by consuming meals like the following:
- Chicken (thighs or breast), rice and steamed veg. This is a classic go-to meal before you hit the gym, containing a combination of lean protein, complex carbs, and fibre.
- Scrambled eggs and avocado on whole grain toast. Eggs are rich in the amino acids your muscles need to function during a workout, avocados are rich in good fat, and the toast will replenish lost energy.
Nail your gym nutrition
If you still have questions about what to eat before the gym, contact the team of Bluecoat Sports today. Our first-class facilities and jam-packed timetable mean that we’ve got a workout for everyone. Paired with our expertise and advice, we can help you achieve your workout goals, from mastering your gym nutrition to smashing your next class.