A lot of emphasis is placed on post-workout nutrition by many bodybuilders and with good reason. The anabolic window which exists post-workout should be taken advantage of in order to achieve noticeable muscle mass gains. However, what you consume prior to your workout is just as important for maximizing long-term bodybuilding goals. Getting proper nutrition before your workout will increase energy levels, vasodilation, and metabolism, giving you the ability to get the most out of your workout routine.
If you fail to eat properly pre-workout, you will quickly run through your stores of glycogen and will experience fatigue. When your energy wanes during your weight training program then you falter in both strength and intensity, causing your muscle gains to suffer. Another negative experienced from the lack of glycogen stores is that your body will turn to muscle mass for energy when glycogen is depleted. Glycogen is your body’s first choice for fuel, but when it runs out, it turns to its second favorite energy source: muscle. Either case, of course, is bad news for bodybuilders trying to accumulate well-formed muscle mass. The consuming of hard-earned muscle or the losing of energy to where you cannot stress muscle fibers to the point of failure will only set back your efforts or leave you on a disappointing plateau.
How to Structure Your Pre-Workout Meal
Pre-workout nutrition doesn’t consist of simply grabbing a sandwich and a glass of milk while heading out the door to the gym. Just as with any successful part of a bodybuilding routine, you have to carefully select the foods you eat and the supplements you take and consume them within a specific time period to get the best results. Pre-workout nutrition should consist of two very important steps. The first is eating a healthy meal consisting of targeted foods an hour or two prior to your workout. The second is to consume high quality supplements approximately 15-30 minutes before your training session.
As mentioned, you should eat your nutritious pre-workout meal an hour or two prior to workout so that it has time to digest and the nutrients can be distributed throughout your system.
1. Slow Burning Energy Source – Complex Carbohydrates
If you want sufficient energy to last throughout a grueling weightlifting routine then you need a source of slow burning fuel. Complex carbs digest slowly, releasing fuel to your working muscle more evenly over a longer period of time compared to simple carbs that give an initial boost of energy but then rapidly fade away. Because complex carbs digest slowly, you should eat early enough for them to be digested and metabolized. If you eat complex carbohydrates too close to a workout then blood will remain in your stomach, which could be directed to working muscles and cramps can occur. Eat around 20-40 grams of such complex carb foods as oatmeal (not the instant kind), whole wheat pasta, brown or long grain white rice, and Ezekiel bread 1-2 hours pre-workout.
2. Muscle-Building – Protein
Protein should be included in all bodybuilding meals since it constitutes the building block of muscle repair and growth. Protein contains amino acids, used by the body to form new muscle fibers and repair damaged muscle fibers. You should eat around 30 grams of protein with your pre-workout meal 1-2 hours prior to workout. Include such delicious selections as lean red meats, turkey or chicken (skinless), or egg whites to give your muscles a pre-workout protein punch. If you are having a busy day and don’t have sufficient time to prepare a nutritious pre-workout meal, drink a high quality whey protein shake.
3. Fast Burning Energy Source – Fruit
Besides a slow, long-lasting energy source, you also need a quick source of fuel that will get your weight training session off to a banging start. For this, you need to eat a healthy source of fast digesting carbs. Fruit is the best source of healthy quick energy. Bananas, oranges, and apples are some of the best selections to grab and eat 15-30 minutes before heading to the gym.
The second step to getting big muscle gains is using pre-workout supplements that stoke the fires to increase energy and stimulate greater muscle growth. Such supplements provide additional amounts of key nutrients, micronutrients, amino acids, and other necessary building blocks, as well as stimulants which give your workout an extra kick. Your choice of pre-workout supplement should be taken approximately 15-30 minutes prior to heading out so it kicks in for your weight training session. There are a seemingly endless number of exercise supplement products on the market that come in all sorts of mixes. Supplement blends consisting of both arginine and caffeine are some of the most popular since they greatly increase focus, energy, intensity, and vasodilation. Both mind and muscles get a super charge resulting in an optimal anabolic environment and explosive workout that is extremely important for building a massive, rock-hard form.
When shopping for a pre-workout supplement, you should look for several key factors. Be sure the supplement contains high quality ingredients. Many manufacturers use low quality items in their products so they can be offered at reduced prices. You should also look for a workout supplement that absorbs quickly. Many supplement ingredients are flushed and eliminated from the body before they have a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream and be useful during your workout. Creatine is a prime example of this.