Regardless of whether you're doing an intense weights routine or a massive endurance session, you need to ensure you're eating the right foods beforehand to fuel your training and maximise the results you get. To do this most nutritionists will recommend a meal that's high in complex, slow releasing, slightly fibrous, low glycaemic carbohydrates to ensure your body is slowly energised throughout the workout.
It's also recommended to have a small amount of protein to further slow the absorption of carbohydrates and also to help maintain a positive nitrogen balance during your workouts, so some experts recommend consuming carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 ratio.
Next fats are normally meant to be avoided pre workout since they're too slowly absorbed by the body however there are certain fats such as those found in coconut oil (medium chain triglycerides) that have actually been praised for being a good pre workout fuel source. Here we examine some of the most popular pre workout foods so you can decide which one best suits your training and nutrition goals.
Pasta as a Pre-Workout Food
Arguably the most used pre workout food, whole-wheat pasta is a great source of carbohydrates and has been used by bodybuilders, endurance runners and teams for years. Providing around 60 grams of carbohydrates per 100g serving it also has a glycaemic index of round 45-55 so ticks all of the boxes for the ideal pre workout food.
Carb Energy Gels as a Pre-Workout Food
Not really a low glycaemic index carbohydrate, carb energy gels are more specifically designed to be taken immediately before or during your workout to provide an instant source of energy to the body. Ideal for runners and triathletes carb energy gels tend to contain solely carbohydrates and have very little fat, fibre or protein since this would only slow the absorption of the carbohydrates and therefore the delivery of energy.
Oats as a Pre-Workout Food
Again with a low glycaemic index due to the fibre content oats are another great pre workout food since they fit all the criteria set out by sports nutritionists. Another added benefit is that they contain B vitamins, which have been shown to boost energy levels, lower stress and help to convert carbohydrates into energy.
Bananas as a Pre-Workout Food
Bananas are perhaps the most commonly used pre workout fruit since they contain a very digestible form of carbohydrates and are also packed full of potassium which is a mineral that's been shown to maintain proper muscle and nerve function. Particularly important for anyone involved in exercise or competition that lasts a long time since our bodies' don't store potassium very well so it needs to be replenished, the best example of this is probably a tennis player playing a 5 set match.
Lentils as a Pre-Workout Food
Not really given enough credit as a pre-workout food, lentils are not only a good source of carbohydrates, protein and fibre but they also contain other minerals that would benefit any workout such as magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium, iron and B vitamins.
Coconut oil as a Pre-Workout Food
This last one goes against conventional advice since it contains fats which usually experts advise against because they're slowly absorbing and won't provide you with the energy you need pre workout. But coconut oil has been shown to contain a fatty acid known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) which studies reveal actually acts more like a carbohydrate than a fat.
Research shows they are absorbed more quickly than their chemical cousins, long-chain triglycerides, because they're shorter and more soluble in water. This makes it possible for medium chain triglycerides to pass directly from the intestines into the bloodstream (quite similar to how carbohydrates are used) unlike how most fatty acids must pass from the intestines and then into the lymphatic system before they can enter the bloodstream. It's believed this unique quality of medium chain triglycerides is responsible for its energy boosting and performance enhancing properties and why it would actually be quite a good choice pre workout, especially when taken with a low glycemic index carb.