Maximizing the potential of your workout starts long before you step foot into the gym. Apart from a good night’s sleep, eating a solid pre-workout meal is a key ingredient to a skin-splitting pump and it also helps trigger muscle growth. You want to build muscle so you’ve gotta fuel your body and take in the right nutrients that’ll help with your gainz.
What Should You Eat Before Your Workout?
Just like every meal, we want to start with a protein base. You’re going to need protein for a few reasons.
- Protein is the most essential nutrient for building muscle and recovery
- Consuming Protein pre-workout will help prevent muscle breakdown while working out
- Consuming Protein pre-workout can trigger increased muscle growth when combined with a workout as opposed to not consuming protein pre-workout.
Next up is carbohydrates. These guys are extremely important to the muscle building process when taken with your pre-workout meal. Carbs pre-workout will fill your muscles with glycogen so they’re ready to push 110%. This will help you trigger muscle growth via multiple pathways.
It increases your pump during your workout. This cell swelling pump can be seen as a threat by the body, triggering muscle growth. Carbohydrate consumption pre-workout also allows you to have more stamina and endurance so you can workout with a higher volume than if you didn’t consume pre-workout carbs. Higher volume workouts can have a better muscle building effect as well.
Last but not least… Fats! Actually, in this case, it is least… a little bit of fat is actually pretty good for you in your pre-workout. It doesn’t have nearly the same benefits for building muscle as protein and carbs however, it provides 2 unique benefits.
1. Healthy fats can slow the digestion of carbs. This is important because it allows for a steady release of glucose into the blood which can then enter the muscles for energy. This means that you’ll have even better stamina and endurance through the workout.
Side note with fats: You really only want to consume a small amount. Large amounts of fat can make you feel sluggish and bloated. Also, the act of digestion itself uses energy so if you have a huge meal with lots of fat, you risk having a crappier and lethargic workout. The opposite of what a small dose of fat can do for you!
2. Healthy fats help support the production of muscle building hormones like Testosterone and IGF-1. (specifically saturated fats).
How Much Should You Eat?
This is totally dependent on the individual. However, we do have some general guidelines. Adjust these numbers as needed. It’s also a good idea to work with a qualified nutrition coach or dietician. These coaches will be able to calculate exactly how much you need to eat based on specific criteria.
Protein: You want between 25-50g with your pre-workout meal.. This is extremely easy to measure! A standard serving of a protein source the size of your palm is roughly 25g. This includes chicken, lean beef, or one scoop of protein powder.
Carbs: You’re looking for enough carbs to refill those muscle glycogen stores so you don’t want to go skimpy with the carbs. You should consume at least 50g carbs pre-workout. You might even be able to go up to 100g of carbs if you’re a bigger person or if you can crush that many carbs without feeling bloated or lethargic. It’s all about feel here so give it a try. Start small, and work your way up. If you go with 50g and you feel great and see progress in terms of muscle, keep it up or slowly increase the intake. If you go up to 100g and notice you’re gaining muscle and fat, you should probably consider decreasing it. Common sense on this one.
Here’s a short list of what 50g of carbs looks like (keep in mind these are all rough estimates and carb content/caloric value may differ between different types of food. Some studies suggest foods can be up to 25% different in nutritional content)
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread
- 2 medium baked potatoes or 1 large (not actually much of a difference between regular and sweet potatoes contrary to popular belief. Check this article for more)
- 2 cups of rice
- 2 cups of lentils
- 2 bananas
- 2 cups of grapes
Fat: This is going to be the lowest amount of your pre-workout muscle building meal. We’re looking for roughly 20g of fat in this meal. It’s still important to get some fat in because it helps slow the digestion of carbs and other nutrients. Also, good quality saturated fats are related to muscle building hormones. That means you want to ensure you’re supporting muscle growth from every angle (or in this case, every macro).
Here are a few things that make up roughly 20g of fat:
- 2 tablespoons of nut butter
- 1 handful of nuts
- ½-3/4 of a big avocado or a full small one
- 1 and a half tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 and a half tablespoons of butter (preferably grass fed)
- You'll also get small amounts of fat (specifically saturated fats) in good quality meat as well. You're looking at about 5g fat per 25g protein in a serving of steak
Take Home Notes:
Make sure you're eating enough. Start with this basic guide but don't be afraid to increase your serving sizes if you're progress has stalled.
This is ONLY taking into considerations what foods to eat pre-workout. You can definitely build an impressive physique using this guidelines. On the other hand, there are a few supplements and other nutrition tricks you can use if you want to take your physique to the next level however, that is for another article.