General wisdom holds that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while that may be true, any fitness buff will tell you that what you eat just before and after your workout comes in as a close second. In this article, I focus on what to eat before a workout where you lift weights (and not just do cardio).
No matter if you are trying to gain muscle or lose fat, I hope that lifting weights is the cornerstone of your workout routine, as it’s by far the quickest way to achieve results. Building a little muscle both looks good and increases your metabolism, making it easier to permanently lose fat.
When you lift weights, you actually damage your muscle fibers slightly. After your workout, your body starts repairing the damaged muscle fibers by fusing them together. This process is what makes your muscles both larger and stronger.
To complete this process, your body needs protein and carbohydrates. This is why you should always have a meal containing both protein and carbs before and after your workouts.
The Perfect Pre-Workout Meal
Before your workout, your focus should be on filling up your body’s energy reserves without eating a big meal that will sit uncomfortably in your stomach all the way through your workout. Ideally, you should eat a small, but nutritionally dense, meal about 45-60 minutes before your workout.
You want your pre-workout meal to contain roughly equal amounts of protein and carbs, but only a little fat. The majority of the carbs should be low-glycemic so your avoid a blood sugar spike just before your workout (and don’t have to take a lot of insulin before your workout if you are diabetic).
You want the protein to be something light so you don’t feel like you swallowed a football before your workout, so skip the beef but reach for protein powder, egg whites or chicken.
For me, the pre-workout meal is often when I get to eat or drink one of the delicious high-protein snacks or shakes we have here on Diabetes Strong. All of these recipes were designed to have around 20-30 grams of protein and carbs per serving, which is the perfect amount for a pre-workout meal.
It may seem counter-intuitive to eat something that looks like cake before your workout if you are trying to lose weight, but as long as your daily calorie intake is where it should be, a calorie dense meal before your workout will actually help you drop the pounds (you can learn how to find your daily calorie need here).
Six delicious pre-workout meals
High Protein Cake Batter Mousse – An easy way to make a healthy pre-workout snack that tastes like chocolate mousse
Strawberry-Banana Shake – A great shake for the hot summer days. Strawberries and bananas are fantastic carb sources and taste delicious too!
Protein Pancakes – These take a little more work, but they are definitely worth it. I usually make enough for two days and store the ones I don’t eat right away in the fridge
Protein Berry Crumble – A freshly baked berry crumble is just about the tastiest snack you can get. You can serve this to anyone and they will think they are eating a high-calorie cake and not a perfect pre-workout snack
Pumpkin Raspberry Muffins – These muffins are actually so low-carb that you can eat a few fresh raspberries on the side to get enough carbs. Best of all, you get to eat two! 😀
Baked Oatmeal Cinnamon Roll – Another delicious recipe that is so clean it works both as a pre-workout snack and as a healthy breakfast