What and when you eat before exercise can make a big difference to your performance and recovery. The goal of your pre-exercise nutrition is to sustain energy, increase performance, preserve muscle mass, and speed up the recovery process. To do so, you’ll want to have a balanced meal of proteins, fats, and carbs. Protein-dense foods eaten 2 – 3 hours prior to exercise will help you maintain muscle mass (very important!!) and quicken your recovery. Carbohydrates (carbs) provide fuel (energy), which increases performance, and also aid in the recoveryrocess. You’ll also want a small amount of fat-dense foods in your meal.
Fats prior to exercise slow digestion of the food and provide some needed vitamins and minerals. Proteins prior to exercise can aid in the recovery process (as previously discussed), as well as provide your blood with needed amino acids. Carbs before exercise will fuel your training and assist in your body’s recovery.
Here are some general guidelines:
- 2 – 3 hours prior to exercise. This far in advance of your workout, should have a mixed meal and a low-calorie beverage like water. (Note: women and smaller men should stick to the lower portion sizes recommended below; larger individuals will obviously need more fuel, so they should follow the larger portion suggested sizes below).
- 1 – 2 thumbs of fat dense food (e.g. almonds)
- 1 – 2 palms of protein dense food (e.g. salmon)
- 1 – 2 fists full of veggies
- 1 – 2 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods (e.g. fruits, whole grain rice)
- Less than an hour prior to exercise. Rather than eating a larger meal 2-3 hours before exercise, some people like to eat a smaller meal closer to the session. The only issue with that: the closer you get to your workout, the less time there is to digest. That’s why we generally recommend something liquid at this time, like a shake or a smoothie.
- Sample smoothie recipe:
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 fist of veggies (e.g. spinach or kale)
- 1-2 cupped handfuls of carbs (e.g. berries or a banana)
- 1 thumb of fats (e.g. mixed nuts or flax seeds)
- A low-calorie beverage like water or almond milk