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The Pre-Workout Meal

Regardless of if you are an elite athlete or an everyday fitness enthusiast, a pre-workout meal is vital for optimal performance. Before we dive into what that looks like, there are a few cases where a pre-workout meal may not be necessary. If the individual is a weight-class athlete on the verge of not making weight for a competition, the pre-workout meal would be avoided. If we are dealing with an endurance athlete who is performing lower-intensity endurance training we may avoid the pre-workout meal in order to utilize fat stores for energy. This concept is similar to doing fasted cardio in the bodybuilding world. The key word here is “low intensity.” In low-intensity situations, the body has the capability of utilizing fat for fuel through the Krebs Cycle. The last scenario where a pre-workout meal is not necessary, which is probably the most relevant of them all, is the athlete who works out first thing in the morning. I’m speaking to all of you 5:30 AM-ers. In order for a pre-workout meal to be properly absorbed, we need to ingest it 1-4 hours pre-training or competition. We DO NOT want to sacrifice sleep for food.

Now let's dive more into the details of a proper pre-workout meal. The reason the meal is so important is that optimal levels of muscle and liver glycogen as well as blood glucose lead to optimal performance. It shouldn't be only carbohydrates either. Protein, fat, and fiber should be included. As mentioned, this meal should be eaten 1-4 hours prior to training or competition. The amount of time between the meal and training is the determining factor of what is in the meal. The further out the meal, the larger it can be. There are some guidelines but I should give the disclaimer that every athlete is different and what works for some may not work for all. This is something that requires some trial and error. The guidelines are as follows:

1.1-4.5 grams per kilogram of body weight of carbohydrate

3-4 hours out 3.0-4.5 grams/kg

1-2 hours out 1.1-2.2 grams/kg

With these guidelines start out on the smaller side to see how you feel. These meals should have 20-40 grams of protein depending on the macronutrients of the client. Fat & fiber should be included but we may adjust them on the low end if we’re eating this meal 1-2 hours out.

This covers the actual meal. We are now going to briefly touch on the 30 minute pre-workout shake. This MUST come in liquid form only. This may be an option for the early morning athletes.

Endurance Athletes

.15 - .25 grams/kg protein in the form of whey, whey isolate, or protein of choice.

1.0 grams/kg of carbohydrate in the form of Gatorade powder, carb replacement supplement, or dextrose.

Strength & Power Athletes

.3 - .5 grams/kg protein

.3 -.5 grams/kg of carbohydrate

In this 30-minute window or less, both fats and fiber should be non-existent to avoid an upset stomach. Once again, these are just guidelines that research suggests. This is NOT a one-size-fits-all equation. This will require some tweaking over time. Or you can just hire a RESOLVE coach and we can handle all that for you ;).

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