New Years has come and gone, people are now finishing up setting and have started taking action on their New Years resolutions.
For a lot of people that includes exercise and healthy eating!! After 10 years of doing this, one of the most common questions I get is 'What do I eat before working out', and although their are literally thousands of articles on this topic, 90% of them are extremely vague and or just WRONG! The days of eating a bowl of pasta with Gatorade before working out, taking 2 scoops of preworkout with enough caffeine to reanimate a zombie and other one size fits all approaches, are not only a thing of the past, BUT DEAD WRONG. In this article we are going to discuss the 3 CRUCIAL things you need to know, that will to help you personalize your preworkout.
Here are the 3 Things you must keep in mind when deciding what to eat preworkout:
Your Goals: The first and most important thing to clarify when deciding what to eat when working out is: your goals! What do I mean by that? Well the foods you choose to eat preworkout will change if you are looking to lose fat, gain strength, perform in a sport or other.
Fat loss: Keep the food and carbs low or lower preworkout. Research is generally pretty clear, training fasted improves glucose tolerance. (1) So a good option here is perhaps a quick digesting protein like eggs, some EAA'S or BCAA's or even training fasted for a min. of 2 hours.
Increase Strength: In this case keep carbs lower, and focus on increasing Dopamine/motivation and Acetylcholine/concentration. To many carbs when doing 1-6 reps can increase serotonin to much, so go for things like a coffee and dark chocolate like 70-80%. That way you will have a good dopamine boost, with acetylcholine from the fats in the chocolate as well as a few slow acting carbs. (2) (3)
Overall Health (Increasing muscle tone): Yes you may find it weird they are in the same category, but they we have long known muscle mass is a great predictor of health, longevity and even cancer survival.(4)(5) In this case we want to increase Nitric Oxide (increase blood flow). Some great suggestions would be lowering caffeine consumption and focusing on good fast digesting protein sources, slow acting carbs and blood vessel dilaters. Example: Scoop of protein, almond milk (or water), 1/2 cup of berries, some spinach and 1/2 beet or beet root juice.(6)
Your Current Condition: The second criteria to clarify when deciding what to eat when working out is: where your fitness level, and body composition is currently.
Fitness Level: The higher your fitness level and skill in training, the more importance should be accorded to preworkout nutrition as it will be the small differences that count.
Your Current body composition: So this probably goes without saying, but the higher your body fat, the less you should consume preworkout! especially carbs.... The basis of fat loss is a generalized caloric deficit, and for sure that applies preworkout. (7) If you are relatively low on bodyfat, you may want to train fed, and carbs may be beneficial in your case.
Your Personality: The 3rd criteria to to take into consideration is your personality or neurotransmitter status. Now this is a very delicate and confusing area that is way to long to cover in detail in a blog. But long story short, your neurotransmitters control much about your mood, workout and personality. When deciding what to eat, what workout to do, and even sports to practice this should be considered at least, if not the determining factor. Let's make it simple:
Anxious or Stressed individual: The higher your stress levels, the more you should avoid stimulants like caffeine. WHY? Because cortisol is the enemy of not only fat loss, but performance and general health. I know personally I LOVE CAFFEINE, but I also get anxiety. When I decided to completely cut I felt a huge difference. (8) If this is you, avoid caffeine and get a dopamine boost from dark chocolate instead.
Low Stress Individuals: Type of person who can drink a coffee and go to bed? Can you have the most stressful day possible and forget about it and have a great nights sleep? In this case you may be able to take a higher dose or consider taking stimulants, as your COMT gene probably eliminate epinephrine and norepinephrine quickly.
**Bonus** Timing of workout: Depending on when you work out during the day, should also dictate what, and how much or little you eat before working out. Although optimal timing of workout is highly individual depending on many factors like personality, current hormonal status and genetics, as a general rule I STRONGLY suggest finishing your workout a minimum of 3-hours before going to bed.
Late Night workouts: Caffeine consumption has to be closely monitored here, or completely eliminated, as it couled affect sleep quality, the most important pillar of health, fat loss or muscle gain.
Although the list is not exhaustive or perfect, it should give you a much better idea on how to choose a proper preworkout for you! If you are confused, or need help working through this info please feel free to contact us, I would be happy to help!
Send us some feedback and let us know about your favourite preworkout foods and or premixed supplements!
(1) Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet.
(2) International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance
(3) The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22775434
(4) Muscle Mass Index As a Predictor of Longevity in Older Adults
(5) Increased muscle mass improves response to cancer treatment
(6) Acute ingestion of beetroot juice increases exhaled nitric oxide in healthy individuals.
(7) Fatty acid oxidation is directly regulated by carbohydrate metabolism during exercise
Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab.
(8) Acute response of human muscle protein to catabolic hormones.