Sometimes you just need a little snack 30-60 minutes before to fuel you for an intense session. What you consume will be dictated by your current goals and preferred macronutrient breakdown but it should always be something unprocessed and gut friendly. No one sets new PR’s when they are bloated and sluggish!
Many people have to workout first thing in the morning and don’t want to eat a full breakfast right away. It’s not a requirement to stuff your face as soon as you wake up if you want to gain muscle. If weight gain is your goal simply ensure you hit a daily surplus and eat all your calories for the day after you have worked out. Besides there are many benefits to working out fasted. Studies have shown that even when consuming the same caloric surplus with an identical macronutrient breakdown less fat was gained in the fasted workout group. This may be due to increases in hormones that regulate metabolism like epinephrine and norepinephrine. Carbs were also more preferentially stored as muscle glycogen instead of body fat. If your goal is to retain muscle while losing body fat try taking Sheer Thermo pre workout in a fasted state. Since you have nothing in your digestive system you will feel the effects of this thermogenic fast and very pronounced.
If you don’t feel the best working out completely fasted then consider adding a tablespoon of MCT oil to your morning coffee. MCT oil is an extract of coconut oil (the 8 and 10 carbon chains in particular) and is absorbed and utilized in a unique way by your body. Unlike other fats MCT’s are very easily absorbed with minimal enzymatic requirements. They also are able to bypass the lymphatic system since they are absorbed by your small intestine and then transported immediately to the liver. From here they are converted to ketone bodies and re-enter the bloodstream. This gives your body an immediately available source of energy in place of glucose. This comes in very handy when you need to fuel an intense workout but are in a large caloric deficit and it’s a great option for someone who is following a low carb diet. It even makes you more efficient at burning fat. Mct oil has been a well kept secret for decades in the bodybuilding world as a way to lose fat and retain muscle pre contest.
This is a diet staple of the pre-contest bodybuilder who is cutting the calories and fat down. You will get an immediate increase in glucose in your blood from the fruit to fuel your workout. The rice cake will take a little longer to absorb and should provide enough energy to carry you through the whole workout. This is a combo many bodybuilders eat backstage before their posing routines because it helps create a pump and increases vascularity.
This is great when you need something quick and easy. The banana provides a quick source of carbs, electrolytes, and B-vitamins to fuel your workout. The fat from the almond butter will slow the digestion of the banana to allow for more sustained energy by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Opt for almond butter over the traditional peanut butter because it’s a better source of monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, and minerals such as zinc and iron that help performance and muscle building. Also choose the raw version over the roasted because the fats become oxidized when roasted which makes them harder to digest, more inflammatory, and even creates some dreaded trans fats.
This is another bodybuilding staple and will provide your workout with sustained energy. Maybe you are trying to put on size and strength but eating a large meal within an hour of a workout leaves you full and sluggish. This will provide you a large amount of complex carbs and protein, while skipping the fat because that would slow digestion of the complex carbohydrate pre workout. Use a low fat liquid like water or coconut water and your favorite protein powder. The oats can be raw but if you have digestion issues consider cooking them gently first and pick a gluten free variety.
This is a great easy snack or light breakfast you can eat anywhere preworkout. Pick some of your favorite berries and mix it with a kefir. Many people consume yogurt but kefir has some benefits that make it favorable over yogurt. Both help clean and maintain the digestive system by providing food to the beneficial bacteria in your gut. But kefir will also supply the healthy bacteria needed to colonize your gut biome as well as healthy yeasts that regulate and eliminate the harmful yeasts in the body.This will help your digestion and absorption of nutrients from all foods you consume. Also the curds of kefir are smaller making for easier digestion than normal yogurt.
This snack provides a great balance of all three macronutrients. Eggs are very quickly and easily digested providing tons of muscle building nutrients. Opt for free range eggs that are able to eat outdoors freely the way nature intended. This leads to a much more favorable fatty acid profile and higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. Use ezekiel bread for toast instead of traditional white or wheat bread. This ancient grain is digested more easily and provides additional nutritional benefits because the grains are sprouted. Sprouting increases the amount of nutrients available while breaking down and eliminating anti nutrients that inhibit absorption of vitamins and minerals. Ezekiel bread also is a complete protein source similar to eggs while other breads are missing amino acids and are considered incomplete.
Anything with maple butter is going to be good. This is a great option for someone who follows a more “paleo” style diet and avoids refined carbs, grains, and processed sugars. Use grass-fed ghee or butter (like kerrygold) to get more CLA (which helps burn fat), vitamin k, omega 3’s, and anti-inflammatories than can be found in grain fed butter or low fat butter replacements. The unprocessed sugars from the maple will give you a quick supply of glucose, while the sweet potato provides slower burning carbs to finish the workout strong. To make the maple butter simply mix and stir in 1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup with some cinnamon and soft butter.
These are another great option for someone who is working out fasted or in a large caloric deficit. Sheer BCAA’s provide minimal calories and help prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue during a workout. When your body is in a caloric deficit and you are performing a workout that is placing a heavy demand on the glycolytic energy systems there is a risk of breaking down lean muscle and converting the amino acids into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. If you have free floating aminos from BCAA’s your body will pull those first before turning catabolic on itself. This can be sipped on starting 15-30 minutes preworkout and should be finished about halfway through the workout.
Bodybuilders tend to do ok at getting enough fats, proteins, and carbs to reach their macronutrient goals. But often we overlook micronutrients and the benefits that come from getting our green fibrous vegetables. A green shake will give you loads of vitamins and antioxidants and provide clean energy during your workout. Try this green shake blend about 45 minutes pre-workout:
2 stalks of kale
2 large slices of celery
A few handfuls of spinach
⅓ cup blueberries
1-3 cubes medium diced pineapple
½-1 scoop of your favorite vanilla whey protein
Add water or ice until desired thickness
Small handfull of chia seeds
Make sure to include a healthy fat as well! This shake is packed full of essential vitamins that are fat soluble and need to be consumed with a fat source to be properly absorbed. You could use mct oil, coconut oil, or even a handful of raw nuts. If you are a fan of beets then add them in. (although your pretty green smoothie will now be ugly brown!) Many pre-workout pump supplements include beet extract to increase blood flow and vasodilation.
While it’s always important to have healthy diet habits your pre workout nutrition may be the most vital aspect, especially when it comes to performance. You need something that will be easy on the digestive system while providing a clean sustained energy. Your body is more important than any luxury sports car so fill it with premium fuel! These 10 pre workout protocols will provide the fuel needed to power through an intense workout while keeping your gut healthy and happy.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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