Fueling your body before a workout is essential for optimal performance and results. Whether you're hitting the gym, going for a run, or engaging in any physical activity, choosing the right pre-workout foods can make a significant difference.
A combination of carbohydrates and protein is seen time and time again to be the best combination to fuel up with before hitting the gym. Carbohydrates provide the energy your muscles need, while protein helps repair and build muscle tissue. A study done by Tipton et al., (2001) found that ingestion of amino acids and carbohydrates before your workout resulted in higher rates of muscle protein synthesis (aka muscle building) than consuming them after. By consuming protein before your workout, you increase the availability of amino acids for your muscles to utilize due to increased blood flow during exercise. A study done by Cripp et al., (2006) found that those who supplemented with protein and carbohydrates before and after a workout built more lean muscle, increased their strength, and had an overall better body composition (hello sexy muscles!).
To test this out I did a little self-study to see which pre and post-workout food combos gave me the most energy, increased my strength, and didn't cause any boating.
The three combinations I tried were:
In the three combos, I played around with the timing of when I took my protein powder and I felt the least sore post-workout and the most recovered when I had it in my pre and post-workout meals. This is potentially due to the high bioavailability and efficiency of digestion in the body that whey protein has.
Pre-workout the oats and protein digested well and didn't cause any bloating. That meal left me feeling great and I had a great workout! My post-workout meal was also great. I am super hungry after training so this meal was great to fill me up. Overall I give this combo a 10/10 across the board!
This was my least favorite combo of them all. The pre-workout meal left me feeling bloated and nauseous because I think my body was not ready to ingest that much food first thing in the morning, Due to that my workout was not great and I did not hit any PRs or get a great pump. Post workout I made a shake because I was not overly hungry and this was enough! I didn't feel any different from this one except for the bloating, nausea, and tiredness so this one gets a 4/10...
This combo was the best for my digestion! The simple and easy to digest foods gave me the most energy and did not drag me down during training. Whey isolate digests very efficiently and almost 100% of the protein in it is utilized in the body which makes it a great protein option for before and after training because you know that your body is getting the amino acids it needs to power you through your workout and build lean muscle.
Overall I would say that choosing a carb and protein combo that is simple and light gave me the best results. Carb sources like oats, bananas, and berries are simple and easy for your body to digest which is probably why they gave me the most energy during my training. I got the majority of my protein from protein powder but when I switched it up I noticed that it was a lot harder for my body to digest and it left me feeling bloated and slow. Most studies use liquid nutrition to test pre and post-workout nutrition because it gets digested and utilized faster than whole foods do in the body. So, based on my little study and the literature I would say that a light protein shake or a small bowl of protein oats is the best choice for pre-training nutrition, and a protein shake or something like protein pancakes made with oats and protein powder is the best choice for post-workout nutrition!
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