Optimizing pre-workout nutrition

February 10, 2017

Optimizing pre-workout nutrition

Optimizing pre workout nutrition!

We have a strong tendency to discuss post-workout nutrition (often at length) as if it is the holy grail of gains. While I will be the first to admit that post-workout nutrition does indeed have an important role in improving our recovery and increasing performance, it certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all of nutrition.

One component of nutrition that is frequently overlooked (and unfortunately so) is pre-workout nutrition.

What we eat prior to crushing our daily workout can make a HUGE difference in our ability to perform during that workout, the results we see from that workout, and of course our ability to recover from that workout.

If we don’t place a premium on what we eat prior to our session, we have the potential to leave a heap of gains at the door – BUT - if we do get our pre workout nutrition correct we have the potential to see some serious improvement in performance as a result.


Carbohydrates Pre Workout

Carbohydrates are an absolutely essential component of our pre workout nutrition.

While carbohydrates may have received a bit of negative attention in recent years (often being described as the cause of metabolic disease, obesity, and cardiovascular disorders), this is completely unfounded – with there being no observed association between carbohydrate intake and disease when those carbohydrates come from whole sources.

Carbohydrates are essentially long chains of glucose molecules stuck together. When we consume carbohydrates, they are broken down in the digestive system into glucose. These glucose molecules are then transported into the blood and active tissues, where they can then be used for energy.

Glucose is the key source of energy to fuel high intensity physical activity (pretty much any exercise where you are working hard – AKA todays W.O.D), which makes carbohydrate intake before we train essential.

The bulk of our carbohydrates should be consumed 1-3 hours before our workout starts, and they should come from whole sources (such as fruit, vegetables, and legumes). Whole carbohydrates are absorbed slowly into the bloodstream and will provide us with sustained energy release throughout the duration of our workout.


Protein Pre Workout

Protein is arguably the most important of all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat).

Once consumed, protein is broken down in the digestive system into amino acids, which are then shuttled around the body. Amino acids are often considered the building blocks of the body, as they are used to build and repair both muscle and connective tissue.

By consuming adequate protein (20-40 grams) 1-3 hours before we start training, we can ensure our muscle tissue receives a steady supply of amino acids both throughout the workouts duration AND immediately after the session’s completion.

This can seriously improve our recovery, which ultimately leads to improved performance over time.


A quick note on Fat Pre-Workout

While fat does hold an important place in our diets, I wouldn’t actually recommend its inclusion in our pre workout meal, as fat is known to slow the digestion of both protein and carbohydrates.

This can limit the availability of both glucose we have for energy and protein we have for recovery during and after our workouts.

It is for this reason that I recommend our pre-workout protein comes from lean sources, such as chicken breast, turkey, or lean cuts of beef.


A note on Supplements

While I would recommend that the bulk of your pre workout meal comes from whole foods, I do understand that we can be limited by time and food availability. If this is the case, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting your pre-workout protein fix from a simple whey protein powder.

In a similar fashion, in this same scenario carbohydrate sources can also come from simple muesli bars or oats.

Although is important to note that both these sources are digested at a much faster rate than their whole food counterparts, and as such should be consumed 30-60 minutes before your session.

Finally, in conjunction with our pre workout food, Creatine is an additional dietary supplement that can seriously increase performance and the results of our training. The supplementation of creatine has shown to improve strength and power performance, which can subsequently lead to greater increases in strength and power over time.



Prioritising your pre workout nutrition could make cause huge jump in performance, and seriously improve the results of your training. This can be done by ensuring you consume adequate protein and carbohydrates before the start of your session.

Moreover, the addition of creatine to your pre workout routine can also yield massive improvements in performance.

By implementing the tips outlined in this article you can take your performance, and results, to the next level!


Author Bio:

Luke Cafferty is a fitness junkie, personal trainer, and blogger. He’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well-rounded physique. Check out more of his work at www.StrengthAuthority.com or follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


Outlaw, Jordan J., et al. "Effects of a pre-and post-workout protein-carbohydrate supplement in trained crossfit individuals." Springerplus 3.1 (2014): 369.

Burke, Louise M., Bente Kiens, and John L. Ivy. "Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery." Journal of sports sciences 22.1 (2004): 15-30.

Jenkins, DavidJ A., et al. "The glycaemic response to carbohydrate foods." The Lancet 324.8399 (1984): 388-391.

Lemon, P. W. R., and F. J. Nagle. "Effects of exercise on protein and amino acid metabolism." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 13.3 (1980): 141-149.

Schneeman, Barbara Olds. "Macronutrient absorption." Dietary fiber. Springer US, 1990. 157-166.

Kreider, Richard B., et al. "Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 30 (1998): 73-82.

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