When it comes to increasing your muscle mass, a thoroughly designed and regularly followed workout program is only one part of the puzzle. The other part, and probably more important, is a well-balanced nutrition plan. Stimulation of muscle growth requires you not only to continuously increase overload but also to fuel your body with good nutrients in the right quantities. In this article we will share several useful tips and examples of pre-workout foods to help you boost your performance and build muscle mass faster.
Pre-Workout Meals are a Part of Your Daily Nutrition
What exactly is a pre-workout meal? A pre-workout meal is any type of food eaten up to 3 hours before the training session. When working on increasing muscle mass, pre-workout meals generally serve two purposes:
- provide energy at a level sufficient to help you push through the training session with maximum performance.
- supply a balanced amount of nutrients for muscle recovery and growth.
Although the intake of pre-workout foods has a direct effect on your performance during training sessions, it’s important to combine it with a well developed weekly nutrition plan. Don’t expect miracles to happen if you only focus on what you eat on your workout days. That approach might bring you some results in the short run, but in the long run irregular and unbalanced nutritional intake hampers your growth.
Principles of a Pre-Workout Meal
When creating your own nutrition plan, here are some tips to help you select your pre-workout meals:
- Timing is important. Depending on how much time is left before the workout, your choice of food will differ. Foods that are difficult to digest (for example, meat, whole-grain cereal etc.) should not be consumed right before physical activities.
- Focus on food high in carbs. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy and help fuel your body and brain. Adequate amounts of slow-release carbs provide you with energy over a longer period of time, which, in turn, ensures that you can last through the entire workout. It helps you overcome training challenges and helps you to more easily recover afterwards. Some examples of high-carb foods are corn flakes, quinoa, brown rice, pulses, nuts, fruits with low GI (Gluten Index).
- Consume moderate amounts of protein. Protein is the main building block for growing new muscle tissue. To maximize its effect, protein needs to be consumed in the post-workout window when your muscles recover and grow. High-protein foods are fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs and low-fat dairy products.
- Avoid eating foods with a high-fat content. Fat slows down the process of digestion and the overall uptake of nutrients. If consumed in large amounts, it can lower your performance during a workout. In your pre-workout nutrition plan avoid foods like pork, dairy made from whole-fat milk, fried/processed food, butter and especially foods rich in saturated fats.
Examples of a Pre-Workout Menu
Below are several examples of foods that I consume prior to my gym workouts:
If the workout starts in 2-3 hours:
- granola, brown rice, oats (or other wholegrain cereals), quinoa
- boiled/grilled chicken
- grilled vegetables
- egg omelet (3 egg whites + 1 whole egg)
- whole-grain bread
If the workout starts in 1-2 hours:
- low-fat cottage cheese with fruits
- almond butter with sandwich
- protein smoothie with milk, fruit and small amount of no-fat cottage cheese
- boiled egg whites with toast
If the workout starts in 1 hour or less:
- fruit smoothie
- Greek yoghurt
- nutrition bar
These meals help me stay enthusiastic, energetic and ready to overcome new challenges during my gym workouts. Since every body is different, I recommend that you experiment with different types and quantities of food to find the best and most suitable mix for you.
I hope you found this article useful and that it will help you develop your own pre-workout meal plan!
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