Good pre-workout nutrition is essential for seeing results. We’re giving you 10 ready-to-eat ideas plus the formula for designing your own pre-workout meal.
Day in and day out, you work hard to build the physique you want and achieve the fitness levels you desire. You know it takes time, but you also feel like you could be making bigger, faster progress toward your goals.
You need information—that edge in knowledge—so you can better understand why you’re not seeing the results you want and find out what you can do to change that.
Turning your fitness dreams into reality requires mastering many pieces, parts, and steps. And the scary truth is if you don’t have all of the essential pieces in play, you may never attain those big ambitions. The key to making progress and realizing success? Learn what all the necessary steps are and put them into practice.
Many people underestimate or misunderstand the importance of one key step for fitness success—the proper pre-workout solid meal. Get your pre-workout meal dialed in to perfection and you’ll see and feel the difference. Your workout performance will sky rocket, your physique will get leaner, tighter and more muscular, and you’ll experience noticeable changes in your recovery between workout sessions.
Does the following scenario sound familiar? You’re anywhere from two to three hours out from starting your workout and you’re feeling ravenous. You’re in a gray area where you don’t want to sit down and have a large meal so close to your workout, but you also know you need something to satisfy your hunger and give your body fuel to get through your upcoming training session.
You think about reaching for a protein shake, but you know that’s just not going to cut it; you need solid food. At the same time, you don’t want to feel full and bloated going into your workout.
What’s the solution? It’s all about timing, meal size, and composition. Here are some considerations and tactics you can take when putting together this crucial meal:
- Ingest a solid meal two to three hours before your training session. That gives you enough time to digest the food and allow the nutrients to be absorbed before your workout starts.
- A small meal of between 150 to 350 calories hits the perfect balance of satisfying your nutrient needs without overtaxing your hormonal and digestive systems or causing you to feel sluggish and unmotivated.
- Choose slow-digesting carbohydrates in this meal for optimal endurance and hormonal support. You want to avoid going into your workout with elevated levels of the hormone insulin, which reduces your body’s ability to burn fat. Additionally, a fast-digesting carbohydrate can cause a hypoglycemic response, bringing on dizziness and fatigue. By ingesting your carbohydrates two to three hours prior to training, as well as choosing a slow-digesting source, you’re giving your body time to rebalance its blood sugar and prevent potential unwanted hormonal spikes.
- Choose sources of protein that are high in amino acids such as tyrosine, which promote stimulant neurotransmitters, like adrenaline and dopamine, helping you feel energized, alert, and motivated before your training even begins.
- Select foods that are low in fat for this meal. Fat has been shown to cause more fatigue and less cognitive arousal two to three hours after ingestion.
There are two paths you can take to meet the above criteria and get the edge you crave. Read on to see which path is right for you!
PATH ONE – READY TO GO MEALS
No need to calculate and create your own meals! Below is the breakdown range of protein and carbohydrates to ingest, followed by 10 small meals and/or snacks that fit the pre-workout meal criteria and take away the guesswork.
- Around 20-80 grams of carbohydrates
- Around 12-20 grams of protein
- Low in fat and fiber
1. Pita Pocket Bread (1) + Thin-Sliced Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (4oz)
- Calories: 308
- Pro: 23g
- Carb: 35g
- Fat: 1.5g
2. Multigrain Bread (2 slices) + Thin-Sliced Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (4oz)
- Calories: 238
- Pro: 24g
- Carb: 26g
- Fat: 2.5g
3. White Rice (1 cup) + Thin-Sliced Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (4oz)
- Calories: 314
- Pro: 26g
- Carb: 41g
- Fat: 5g
4. Brown Rice (1 cup) + Thin-Sliced Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (4oz)
- Calories: 338
- Pro: 26g
- Carb: 46g
- Fat: 6g
5. Homemade High-Protein Pancake or Waffle Mix (3-4 pancakes/waffles)
- Calories: 243
- Pro: 24g
- Carb: 30g
- Fat: 3g
6. Macaroni (1 cup) + Tyson Grilled & Ready Chicken Breast Strips (4oz)
- Calories: 307
- Pro: 32g
- Carb: 38g
- Fat: 5g
7. Rice Cakes (2) + Reduced Fat JIF Peanut Butter (1TB) + 1 Chicken Breast (4oz)
- Calories: 295
- Pro: 26g
- Carb: 22g
- Fat: 8g
8. Quinoa (1 cup) + Tyson Grilled & Ready Sweet Asian Chicken Thigh Fillets (3oz)
- Calories: 362
- Pro: 25g
- Carb: 43g
- Fat: 10g
9. Special K Cereal (1 cup) + Greek Yogurt (1 cup)
- Calories: 237
- Pro: 29g
- Carb: 31g
- Fat: 0g
10. Oatmeal (1/2 cup) + Egg Whites (1 cup)
- Calories: 117
- Pro: 31g
- Carb: 29g
- Fat: 3g
PATH TWO: LIFTER’S CHOICE
Want to pick and choose your own foods and be as precise as possible? Use the below formulas to calculate your protein and carbohydrate amounts and build your meal around those numbers.
Here’s an example to help you calculate your protein and carbohydrate needs:
- Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Example: If an individual weighs 180 pounds, his or her weight is 81 kilograms.
- To calculate your protein requirements, multiply your weight in kg by .15 grams for your low end of the range and by .25 grams for your high end of the range. Example: An 81 kg individual should take in between 12 and 20 grams in his or her pre-workout meal.
- To calculate your carbohydrate requirements, multiply your weight in kg by .25 grams for the low end of the range and by 1 gram for the high end of your range. Example: An 81 kg individual should take in between 20 and 80 grams in his or her pre-workout meal.
With protein, it’s simple: Consume lean, low-fat sources of protein that are high in tyrosine and other amino acids that promote stimulant neurotransmitters.
Some examples of lean, high-tyrosine content foods include:
- Egg whites
- Cottage cheese
- Fish—tuna and cod are your best low-fat fish choices. Pink salmon is also acceptable but slightly higher in fat (approximately 5 grams of fat per 3 ounces).
- Seaweed, spirulina
- Chicken breast
- Game meat—bison, elk
With carbohydrates, you want to eat slow-digesting sources that are not high in fiber. While fiber is highly beneficial at other times during the day, taking in large amounts pre-workout is not optimal and can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Aim to take in carbohydrate sources that are high in amylose (slow-digesting starch) and low in amylopectine (fast-digesting starch).
There are significant differences in the carbohydrate make-up of food sources, even between foods that seem similar. For example, a standard white potato provides 20% amylose, while a red sweet potato has 32% or more of amylose—a big difference.
Some high amylose examples include:
- Potatoes, including yams, red sweet potatoes, white sweet potatoes
- Whole wheat bread
- Ground rolled oats
- Wheat pasta
- Rice, including long-grain brown rice, jasmine rice, wild rice blends
Tip: Do not rely on the terms “complex carbohydrate” versus “simple carbohydrate.” There are many so-called complex carbohydrates, such as maltodextrin, that are actually rapidly digested and absorbed and cause a quick insulin release similar to a simple sugar.
You’re on a mission. You know it’s going to take hard work to reach your goals, and you know the best things in life never come easy. You have to earn it—there aren’t any miracle pills or shortcuts—but there are strategies and tools that can have a big, positive impact on your progress and performance.
We are on this mission with you, fully committed and dedicated to sharing the knowledge, strategies, and tools that will give you the edge you need to fight against your challenges, train with passion, and achieve your fitness goals.