Having a productive and efficient workout begins from before you even do the first squat.
Whilst you may be putting a lot of work into the exercises you do (or the outfit you wear), it is equally important to make sure you prep in the right way. The good news? It involves eating.
Fuelling your workout is just as important as making sure that you’re doing your squats or deadlifts with the right form. Unfortunately, finding good pre-workout snacks to eat at the right time is almost an art form. Fat and fibre take much longer to digest, so you’ll want to avoid dishes too high in those to avoid feeing sick.
Eating at the right time is key to ensuring your body has had enough time to process the nutrients. The golden rule is the closer you get to your workout, the more you’ll want to focus on carbohydrates. Loading up on carbohydrates before an endurance workout has been proven to improve performance since the body breaks it down as quick, easy energy.
Protein is also an important component of a pre-workout snack or meal as it prevents muscles from breaking down, but it’ll require a bit more time for your body to digest. Whichever you choose, these pre-workout snacks will ensure you get through your workout without feeling sluggish, lethargic or worst of all, hangry.
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This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.
An apple or banana with the nut butter of your choice can be a quick and easy way to get an energy boost before a tough workout. Because it’s relatively simple for our bodies to digest, fruit is always a good pre-workout snack. The glucose content is useful for powering muscles during the workout, and there are plenty of vitamins and minerals to replenish your body’s depleted levels with.
Nut butters like peanut or almond butter have protein to support muscle repair while keeping you satiated for longer. The latter also has high calcium and copper content, which plays a part in keeping your brain cell communication and nervous system at peak level.
As a source of two natural stimulants — caffeine and theobromine — cacao is a coffee alternative which can provide long-lasting energy, especially during early morning workouts. The cocoa bean-derived superfood also acts well as an anti-inflammatory, and provides the brain with a boost of dopamine to improve mood and heighten motivation, helping you to feel more focused during your sessions.
Greek yoghurt is an excellent source of protein, which when combined with high antioxidant fruit such as berries or pomegranate can help decrease inflammation in the body after training. The carbohydrates and fibre from this easy snack are also useful for keeping your energy levels high and your food cravings low. If you have at least 60 minutes before your training starts, go ahead and replace yoghurt with some high-protein cottage cheese for an equally tasty and useful snack.
As a great source of complex carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index, sweet potatoes are one of the best forms of carbs for sustainable, slow-releasing energy throughout an intense workout. Best consumed two to three hours before, the fuss-free snack also provides copper for healthy muscle tissue, and vitamin C, which helps prevent muscle catabolism, or the breakdown of muscle tissue.
Exercise produces free radicals in the body, which can potentially damage cells. When eaten with the skin on, a sweet potato accounts for 100 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, which acts as an antioxidant to prevent oxidative damage.
Turns out Instagram’s favourite brunch order also makes for a good pre-workout meal. Adding a light spread of avocado — which has healthy fat that’s anti-inflammatory — to whole wheat bread can give your fuel stores a steady supply of energy. Adding a hard-boiled egg to this combination will not only prevent you from dealing with the dreaded mid-afternoon sugar crash, but also provide protein, vitamins, and minerals for improved muscle performance and recovery.
Portable and endlessly customisable, fruit smoothies make for a convenient snack or pre-workout meal without making you feel overly full. Adding berries and bananas into yours can make for a tasty combination, but a handful of spinach does plenty for a nutrition boost. To get adequate protein before your workout, a scoop of whey protein or peanut butter will help with sustained energy release and muscle repair.
Best consumed two to three hours before a workout, omelettes are an ideal source of protein and amino acids that prevent muscle catabolism while promoting muscle growth. To supercharge yours, add greens like spinach or kale to the mix, so you get a convenient meal packed full with all the nutrients your workout needs.
Protein pancakes might not have the same fluffy consistency as traditional pancakes made with flour, but they make for much better pre-workout alternatives thanks to its higher ratio of slow-digesting carbs, fibre, and protein. An easy recipe calls for protein powder, a ripe banana, baking powder, salt, and eggs, and can be whipped up one to two hours before hitting the gym. They are, however, known to be quite dense, so for some fluffier stacks, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, before folding into the rest of the batter.