arnold

Pre Workout Nutrition

Energy levels are arguably the most important nutritional topic we can cover with regards to our training. Yes, keeping cortisol levels low and getting a head start to the recovery process are both vital pieces to the puzzle, but we get nothing done if we don’t have energy.

The quality of our workout hangs on whether or not we have energy. The more the better. This is why I’m all for pre workout supplements like EXTREME RUSH or even a cup or two of coffee prior to training. They ensure we’re going to at least have the energy for an awesome workout. The rest is up to us… Will we push through the pain and pump out one more rep, or will we quit early?

This article as all about creating an optimal environment for a workout from a nutritional standpoint. We’ll look at two different methods of “pre-workout” nutrition. Then, at the end of the article, we’ll do a little experiment…

Insulin and Energy

For years I’d follow the same pre workout macronutrient breakdown (to a degree). A meal high in ‘good’ carbohydrates. Low in fats. And high in lean proteins.

French toast made with egg whites. Fish with quinoa or brown rice and veggies. I followed this routine with good reason. The carbohydrates before the workout spikes insulin. Insulin, being a “carrier” hormone, raises our ability to absorb the lean protein source that would accompany it.

The meal, usually consumed an hour before a workout, also gave my body a fuel to burn to ensure that I wasn’t burning the muscle I was breaking down during my workout. The carbs would give me energy. The protein would start the recovery process even BEFORE I had finished training.

Again, I did this for years. That is, until a friend of mine noticed I was always yawning when I was working out. On the day of this workout, we had just had a meal like “fish and veggies” one. With a large accompaniment of carbohydrates in the form of whole wheat pasta.

So, we talked. And talked. And figured out my yawning may not simply be attribute to a lack of sleep (which I had the night before in this instance), but also to a sensitivity to spikes in insulin… brought on by the heavy load of carbohydrates that I had just ingested.

Thus, it was time to experiment…

For the week following I tried something new with my pre-workout nutrition: no carbohydrates besides vegetables. High fat content and a high source of protein. It went against everything I had ever learned about pre-workout nutrition.

Fat DIMINISHES our body’s ability to absorb protein. Carbs ENHANCE our ability to do so. Pre workout carbohydrates have been a staple of my diet for years. But along with those pre workout carbs, I also relied on EXTREME RUSH and coffee to maintain the energy levels I needed to perform well.

And, like clockwork, as my workout neared the 30 minute mark, my energy levels would sink. I would start yawning and my focus would wain. Now that I was doing the OPPOSITE of everything I had ever learned, things began to change. Immediately.

The results: no yawning.

But why I say?!

Meat & Nuts

My new pre workout nutrition involved meat and lots of it. Usually bacon and eggs with veggies or steak with veggies (or some other form of meat or fish). Meat slows the rise of our blood sugar. Where carbohydrates send it skyrocketing. Nuts (high in omega 3’s) promote brain function and increase brain activity.

The result was a steady rise in energy. Not the violent spike that occurred with a high carbohydrate pre workout meal. Compound that with a serving of EXTREME RUSH and I was golden. No crash. No ‘fall from grace’ towards the end of a workout. Just steady and sustained energy.

Adding Carbs After A Workout

Am I saying cut carbs out from your diet altogether? Of course not. I’m not a man of extremes when it comes to nutrition. I am a guy who takes a practical stance on eating. If you experience drowsiness after eating carbohydrates, it makes sense not to load up on them before a workout. 

If you don’t experience drowsiness after eating a plate of pasta, then don’t worry about it. Stick to the other pre workout nutrition articles I’ve put out in complete support of a pre workout meal that’s high in carbohydrates. If I wasn’t a bag of potatoes during my workout after eating carbs, I’d still be having a high-carb meal pre workout.

If you’re like me and you do experience drowsiness after loading up on carbs, you still need to get them in you around your workout. The faster absorbed the carbohydrate, the better. With 10 minutes left in my training session I’ll have a shake. The shake will contain protein powder (ISO SMOOTH), and waxy maize (a carbohydrate blend of fast-absorbing carbs). I’ll also add greens to the shake.

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Greens are very important, especially with a high-meat/protein diet that can leave us with a very acidic ph. Greens help us not only get the nutrients we need, but they help us stay alkaline. If you’re interested in greens, check out THIS VIDEO for more info on their benefits.

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Following the post workout shake, I’ll have another meal high in carbohydrates (usually yams or quinoa) with a lean source of protein (usually fish). Following that meal I might have one more high in carbs, then top the night off with a small meal or a snack that’s high in fat to promote healthy testosterone levels.

As a result of the ‘low carb’ pre workout meal I’ve experienced a much more sustained amount of energy. Fewer peaks and crashing. Because my workouts are short, and because I’m getting in a post workout shake that’s high in fast carbs before the end of the workout, my cortisol levels remain low. Not to mention the testosterone positives of a high-fat meal.

This article is meant to give an alternative to those who suffer from that same insulin sensitivity that I do. If you have no problem with carbs before a workout – then keep on trucking. There’s no need to change. But if you do feel lethargic 30-60 minutes after a high carb meal, give this method of eating a shot…

Experiment

Follow the ‘meat and nuts‘ pre workout meal for a week. Make sure it’s high in vegetables. And keep it to about an hour and a half before your workout. Take notes about how your energy levels are. Then do the opposite the following week with a high carbs/low fat meal before your workout. Again, take notes.

Compare the both when you’ve finished and let me know the results in the comments section.

Not everyone has this sensitivity to spikes in insulin that send energy levels crashing. A lot of us don’t think about it because it’s simply something we’ve been doing forever. I’ve made the change in my nutrition and my workouts have improved as a result. This improvement has helped me keep the physique I want year-round in a BIG way.

Pre workout meals: eggs + bacon & veggies. Steak + veggies. Chick (skin on) + veggies. Fish + veggies. You want to keep the fat content high.

Bonus tip: have a cup or two of green tea after a workout. The tea has been shown to prolong the fat-burning effects of a workout. 3 cups a day also helps us repair muscle tissue. AND, as I’ve recently experienced, a cup of green tea can prolong the energy and focus-boosting effects of an espresso. An espresso followed by a cup of green tea has been a staple of my afternoon work block for a while now. Give it shot!

  • Spencer

    Very interseting….I am gonna have to give this a shot. Thx for the atricicle!

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Bookmark this article then let me know how it goes. I'm interested to see if you notice any changes.

  • Chiv3On

    What are your suggestions for not feeling too full while lifting? Whenever I eat a lot before my workout, I notice that I feel more lethargic and often feel like puking when lifting heavy on lifts like squats, rows, deadlifts and presses (all variations). When I was bulking this was very common for me (I was typically eating a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with a protein shake an hour before working out).

    Now that I'm working on maintaining and adding more definition, I usually just have a few scoops of SuperPump Max and 3 creatine pills prior to my workout. Should I add a few handfuls of almonds and brazil nuts to that?

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      That lethargic feeling could come from the carbs man. Cut them out. You shouldn't feel as full, but MAKE SURE YOU'RE NOT SKIMPING ON FATS. If you go low carb, you need high fats.

      You're on the right track with the almonds and Brazil nuts. Those'll help for sure. Cut out the bread though. Try it for a week then report back here and let me know how it goes.

      • Chiv3On

        Update: I cut the carbs before working out and its made a big difference. Instead of the turkey sandwich, I've been having a can of tuna or a can of chicken and some brazil nuts. No more bloated and overly full feeling.

        Thanks for the tip, Chad!

        Stay Strong!

      • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

        NICE! No problem man. Good move on putting them into practice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.fletcher.7549 Paul Fletcher

    Nice article Chad, Now that I have my morning routine in check (eating properly, etc.), I want to get my pre- and post workout meals in order. I know how important they are. Currently, I have a whey protein shake prior to working out and a piece of fruit. I drink vitamin water with L-caratine during, and after I have a protein shake and another piece of fruit. However, after the workout I am usually FATIGUED and I cannot even eat for like 30 minutes because I feel kind of dizzy and sick to my stomach. Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow me to eat meat and veggies pre workout. I usually have to get to the gym right after work and I can barely keep up with packing my lunch and my snacks, let alone plan another meal!

    Do you have any suggestions for me? I have heard that eating simple sugars is good after working out, like gummi bears or something like that and I was thinking that may aid in my recovery. Also, do you think I am getting enough carbs post workout with just a piece of fruit?
    Best,

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Hard boiled eggs + nuts is an idea. Or go on an empty stomach. After a workout simple sugars are great. I'd have more than just a piece. Try and get a shake with a bunch of berries in it or something like that.

  • JbpCOL

    great! ill have a look at it; see how it goes with me.

    Chad quick question: do you do any physical activity in your rest days? like riding bicycle, i jogging, or something like that? and you would consider this a workout? are you still boxing in your rest days as well, because im staring a boxing program as well… ill be doing boxing on tuesday, thursdays and saturday maybe a fight, but i want to keep doing weights but i dont know if its too much if i do them on mondays, wednesdays and fridays? sunday rest? what do you think?

    • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

      Hey, ya I'm active on rest days. More walking than anything. Maybe play a sport. I haven't been to the boxing gym a lot lately, I'd consider that training, especially if I'm sparring.

      Are your goals to gain mass? You can do a 2-3 day split along with the boxing. If the boxing's not that intense, do a normal split.

      • JbpCOL

        oh, well yes, i want to gain more muscle for boxing. when you mean 2-3 day split along with boxing you mean, mon-wed-fri weight training and tues-thurs-sat boxing?
        boxing training is not that intense but is really tiring…
        what do you thing ;)

      • http://www.chadhowsefitness.com/ Chad Howse

        Start with a 2 day split, then try adding one more day. That's what I did when I started lifting.

        Start out only lifting heavy for O-lift type exercises, then you can add more in there.