A Guide To Pre-workout Nutrition

What to Put in for Peak Output

When to Eat

The optimal time to eat is 60 - 90 minutes before the workout if you’re concentrating on consuming whole foods. Any sooner than that and you may suffer from gastro-intestinal upset while you’re training. Planning then, is critical. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your meal, so that the time you are actually eating, rather than preparing it, it is within that 60 - 90 minute window. Alternately, prepare your meal ahead of time. The food needs to be well and truly into your bloodstream and coursing toward your muscle cells as you walk through the gym door.

What To Eat

Eating fish pre-workout is a great idea. It is one of the fastest digesting proteins, whereas meat, which is a slow digesting protein will take 3-4 hours to get into your bloodstream. White fish, however, will provide a steady stream of amino acids into your bloodstream just in time for when it counts. This will help promote recovery and prevent a catabolic state. The fish will provide fast digesting protein.

You do not want to eat fat prior to your workout. When you are working out you should be spiking your insulin. You can achieve this by sipping on a workout shake while you’re training. Insulin is a storage hormone, so when levels are high, any fat floating around in your bloodstream will go straight to your fat stores. You will, however, need to add some quality carbohydrates. Slow release carbs are the way to go here. Fast release carbs will spike your insulin levels, but you don’t want this to happen until you are working out. So, leave it until you are in the gym to spike your insulin. Slow release carbs will provide a steady stream of energy to power you through your workout. Brown rice is a great choice here.

Some alternative pre-workout meals are an apple or a banana with some tuna, a protein shake, or a slice of bread with tuna on it (no butter on the bread).

The Protein Shake Meal

If you choose to take your pre-workout meal in the form of a shake rather than whole food, then you should move it closer to the workout - within 30 minutes of training is ideal. You should be looking for a shake that will give you 20 grams of protein and about 30-40 grams of carbohydrate to provide the ideal environment to carry you through your workout, prevent muscle breakdown and encourage muscle recovery and growth. Whey protein powder is the fastest digesting protein that you can consume. The amino acids in whey protein will get into your bloodstream and to your muscles during the workout, when you need them the most. Whey is also a great source of the branch chain amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, which reduce fatigue and increase energy levels during he workout, as well as keeping your testosterone levels high and reducing muscle breakdown after the workout.

A pre-workout shake will supply your protein needs. For carbs, the best thing you can do 30 minutes before the workout is to eat some fruit like an apple or a banana. Carbs from fruit will provide a slow release energy source without interfering with fat burning. Fruit is also a great choice because it provides powerful antioxidants that maximize nitric oxide levels during training. Research has also shown that polyphenols in such fruit as apples not only increases muscle strength and endurance but also enhance fat burning.


A pre workout supplement will provide the turbo charge to power your training, allowing you to push harder and do more. Pre workout supplements are blends of a number of compounds designed to boost your performance, including:

  • Creatine
  • Nitric oxide
  • Caffeine
  • Amino acids
  • BCAA’s

These compounds are typically combined in a pre workout powder that is mixed with water to create a pre workout drink. Because they’re in liquid form, the nutrients will be absorbed more quickly, providing that extra boost to power your workout. The creatine in the stack will allow you to sustain your anaerobic power and force out those last few reps that you’d otherwise fail on, while the nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to dilate, enabling the blood to flow more rapidly to your muscle cells. This delivers more oxygen to your muscles, allowing you to recover more quickly between sets. The amino acids, including the branch chains (BCAA’s), will support muscle strength and promote lean muscle tissue recovery and growth.

Key Points:

  1. Have a meal 60 - 90 minutes before your workout
  2. Focus on fast release proteins and slow release carbs
  3. Take no fat in your pre-workout meal
  4. Take in 20 grams or protein and 30-40 grams of carbs
  5. If you are taking a pre-workout shake have it 30 minutes before the workoutYour pre-workout shake should be whey protein based
  6. Supplement with a blend of creatine, Nitric Oxide, caffeine, and BCAA’s.


Author: Steve Theunissen
Author Bio: Steve Theunissen is the Nutrition Souq Bodybuilding and Workouts Editor. He is a former gym owner and personal trainer. Steve is the author of 5 hard copy books and dozens of e-books on the subject of fitness, bodybuilding and weight loss.