1Life Blog

What To Eat Before A Workout

Posted by Paul Rayner on 14-Jun-2019 15:55:42
Paul Rayner


Whether you are an athlete, a fitness fanatic or someone brand new to exercise, it’s likely you’ll be looking at ways in which you can improve your performance and reach your personal goals. And good nutrition is a key part of this.  

Fuelling your body with the right food, at the correct time can not only help your body to perform better, it can also aid faster recovery after each gym visit.

Here is a round-up of pre-workout nutrition to get you started….


What and Why?

The food we eat fuels our body and the right pre-workout nutrients can provide us with the energy and strength we need to perform better.  Everything we consume before we exercise plays a specific role in how we perform during exercise, however, the ratio in which we consume them is different for each person and the type of exercise involved.


- Carbs

Your muscles rely on the glucose from carbs for fuel.  For short, high-intensity exercise your glycogen stores are the main source of energy for your muscles.  However, for longer exercise sessions, the degree to which carbs are used depends on a number of factors, such as intensity, type of exercise and overall diet.  This is due to the fact that glycogen stores are limited and as these stores become depleted you’ll notice your energy levels decrease.

Research has proven that carbs can increase glycogen stores which is why many athletes such as long-distance runners ‘carb load’ prior to an event in order to maximise glycogen stores.


- Protein

Studies into the role of protein as a source of pre-workout nutrition have found it can improve athletic performance.  It has been found that eating protein, either on its own or with carbs, before exercise increases muscle growth.

A recent study in to the role of consuming 20 grams of protein before exercise showed the following benefits:

- An improved anabolic response, or muscle growth

- Improved muscle recovery

- Increased strength and lean body mass

- Increased muscle performance


- Fat

Healthy fats also play an important role in your diet before heading to the gym.  While glycogen fuels your body for short, high-intensity exercise sessions, fat is the main source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise.

So in summary, carbs help to maximise glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise, while fat fuels your body for longer, less intense workouts. Meanwhile, protein improves muscle growth and aids recovery.


Timing is Key

Now you know the role nutrition has on your body when it comes to exercising, next we’ll look at the optimum time to eat before a workout.  

The timing of your pre-workout meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition.  To get the most out of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat approx. 2–3 hours before you exercise.

If this isn’t feasible due to the timings of your workouts then still aim to eat a smaller meal/snack containing carbs, protein and fat before you hit gym.  If you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout then try to choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs with some protein. By sticking to this rule you will prevent any stomach discomfort while you exercise.


Example Pre-Workout Meals

The food you eat and how much will depend on you as an individual as well as the type, duration and intensity of your workout.  

Here are a few examples of balanced pre-workout meals to try.  These are perfect if you plan to workout within 2-3 hours or more:

- Sandwich on whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad

- Omelette and whole-grain toast topped with avocado spread and a piece of fruit

- Lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables


If you plan to workout within 2 hours:

- Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries

- Whole-grain cereal and milk

- Porridge topped with banana and sliced almonds

- Natural peanut butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread


If you plan to workout in an hour or less:

- Greek yogurt and fruit

- Natural cereal/nut bar

- A piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or apple


Above are a few meals suggestions to try with but you might want to experiment with different timings and ingredients to suit you and to achieve the best results from your workouts.  Remember that eating a balanced, natural diet is important for your health and nutrition.

For more information about fitness and nutrition contact your local 1Life centre where the qualified team will be on hand to help and support you. Find your 1Life centre here.