Imagine being excited to get to your working out only to begin your first exercise and realize that you are already too tired to continue on…
This is a tell-tale sign that you are likely not taking care of 3 main goals of proper pre-workout nutrition.
To make certain that you are optimizing your workout and subsequent recovery, you have to make sure that your pre-workout nutrition addresses energy levels, stimulates protein synthesis, and offers adequate hydration.
We will dive into the importance of each of these below:
1- Energy Levels
The energy sources required will depend on the type of physical activity that you will be engaging in. For example, for power-based training like heavy lifts, box jumps, or even sprints – the body relies mainly on stored ATP and creatine! For longer training like prolonged running, the body relies more on stored glycogen in the muscles.
Both of the above require that the body has stored carbohydrates (as glycogen), and also elevated creatine levels so that as creatine is used, it is replaced by the stored amount that is in excess. This, however, does not happen instantly. It is recommended that the added creatine and carbohydrates are consumed approximately 24 hours before working out. This is called, “loading”. It is also useful to consume some creatine (in the form of a supplement is fine), and some carbohydrates within four hours of working out as well.
Of course, if you are on a low carb diet, then you will have to ensure that you are still eating carbohydrates during this window, but the total amount will just be lowered. It is also important to focus on complex carbohydrates vs. simple sugars because simple sugars will raise insulin levels and limit the body’s ability to tap into fat stores.
So, doing the above will ensure great workout sessions, improved recovery, and will make sure that you are not tired after your first set.
2- Stimulating Protein Synthesis
Simply put, protein synthesis is the process of repairing damaged muscle tissue. The continuous damaging and repairing is what makes muscles grow bigger and stronger. Protein synthesis requires performing resistance training and then consuming protein to assist with the repair process. Hence, fast-digesting protein is an incredible option to help with protein synthesis. Although it has been traditionally mentioned as a post-workout option.
It is also recommended to drink some prior to working out. This will ensure that there are available amino acids to begin protein synthesis as muscles are in the process of being damaged. This protein can also come in the form of protein shakes or BCAA drinks as these forms carry with them a very fast digestion rate.
3- Proper Hydration
No matter what sport you are engaged in, hydration is always the key to cardiovascular function and keeping the hormones balanced. As you sweat in the gym, the amount of water that is found in the bloodstream declines and this ends up having a negative impact on cardio output. As such, maintaining proper hydration will allow the body to have enough water and electrolytes to fuel the body and all of its internal workings so that your performance level does not drop.
The key electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and chloride. For those athletes who sweat profusely, it is highly recommended that they add these electrolytes to their water so that they can improve hydration. Otherwise, they may have enough water, but not enough electrolytes. If this happens then the body cannot regulate water properly and it can cause bloating and become a strain on the heart and the kidneys.
Knowing your body and preparing for your workout session is much more than just the mental component. Ensuring that all of these 3 tips are adhered to will pay off BIG TIME when you realize that you perform at a consistently high level, feel great, look your best, and recover faster than you ever did before.
Campbell, B., et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007. 4(8).
Churchward, T., Burd, N., et al. Nutritional Regulation of Muscle Protein Synthesis with Resistance Exercise: Strategies to Enhance Anabolism. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2012. 9(40).
Cribb, P., Williams, A., Hayes, A. A Creatine-Protein-Carbohydrate Supplement Enhances Responses to Resistance Training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2007. 39, 1960-1968.
Maughan, R. Impact of mild dehydration on wellness and on exercise performance. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003. 57(Suppl 2), S19-S23.
Montain, S. Hydration recommendations for sport. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2008. 7, 187-192.
Nielsen, F., Lukaski, H., Update on the Relationship Between Magnesium and Exercise. Magnesium Research. 2006. 19(3), 180-189.
Sawka, M., et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2007. 39(2), 377-390.
Tang, F., et al, Contribution of Creatine to Protein Homeostasis in Athletes after Endurance Sprint Running. European Journal of Nutrition. 2013.