Pre-Exercise Nutrition: Is it Necessary?

Pre-Exercise Nutrition: Is it necessary and if so what do you do?

When talking about pre-training nutrition, first and foremost you need to identify your goals. Pre-exercise meals are essentially nutrient timing. It is making sure you’re getting exactly what the body needs at the exact time it needs it. However for the majority of people we see in the gym, nutrition timing is not the main priority. You have to get the foundations first. Focusing on eating whole balanced foods on a consistent basis will be the place to start before getting into the fancier stuff.

For the performance athlete, what and when you eat before exercise can play a large role in your performance. It can also affect your recovery for the next day. Two to three hours leading up to exercise you want to eat food that will aid in sustaining energy, boost performance, and promoting recovery lean muscle mass. For those of you who are looking to optimize this part of your nutrition, here are some tips.

To Dos and Not to Dos for your Pre-Exercise Meal

What to avoid

– Eating large meals and jumping right into a training session
Your body will not have adequate time to absorb the nutrients needed to sustain energy through a workout.
– Trying to spike insulin through sugars

What to Eat


– Aids in maintaining and increasing muscle size
– Reduce inflammation markers
– Increases the flow of amino acids into your muscles

– These are our muscles primary source of fuel, most individuals will never deplete  their glycogen (which is how the body uses carbs) stores enough to burn pure fat
– Preserves glycogen stores by giving fuel to rebuild the glycogen that has been broken down
– They stimulate the secretion of insulin which aids in protein synthesis

– Do not play a major role in sports performance
– Helps slow digestion to keep body at an even keel
– Provides vitamins and minerals

What does this look like in terms of serving size?

Men for your pre-exercise meal:

– 2 palms of protein 20-30 grams
– 2 palms dense carb foods 50-60 grams (i.e. brown rice or berries)
– Thumb size of fat 10-15grams

Women for your pre-exercise meal: 

– 1 palm of protein 15-25 grams
– 1 palm dense carbs 30-40 grams
– 1 thumb of fat 5-8 grams

Again these are examples, don’t take everything as if it is the only way it can be done. Following these guidelines will give you a good basis on what you should eat before you go exercise, but what is more important to remember is that focusing on your nutrition as a whole and not just the meal before exercise. This is where you are going to win or lose the battle for a good diet is the rest of the meal in your day not the one right before we go workout.

Nutrition is an extremely important part of a successful weight loss plan. It is also important aspect of overall health (not just your pre-exercise meal). Check out our podcasts and articles on nutrition including this podcast on metabolism or the article ins and outs of counting macronutrients … you know if you’re interested!

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Nick Prevett

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