Pre-Workout Nutrition Strategies
Meals you eat around your workout are considered “fuel”, which is different from regular meals. Special attention should be paid to timing of your intake of fuel as well as the nutrient profile.
For example, pre-workout fuel calls foods that are mostly carb-based and easy to digest, whereas post workout fuel may call for quick-absorbing carbs and high quality lean protein. In either case, try the IsAgenix meal replacement shakes sold at the studio! In addition to the IsAgenix shakes Jackie sells at the studio, which are great with a handful of berries or a banana; other options include: an English muffin or a whole-grain breakfast pita with a bit of peanut or almond butter, or a small bowl of oatmeal with a splash of almond milk and a handful of berries. If you’re running out the door, try yogurt and a banana on your way to the gym or bring one of the IsAgenix shakes along.
Breakfast is crucial to your day — why start your morning off with a bar when you can have an actual meal? Breakfast is by far the most important meal and will raise your metabolic rate – meaning food is used effectively for the rest of day, helping to burn fat and encourage weight loss. Go for a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs, as the body uses more calories to digest protein than quick energy-releasing carbs, such toast or cereal. Fruit is packed with energy-giving nutrients and is a healthy carb on the side. Jackie’s favorite suggestion for pre- and post-workouts on the run are the IsaLean Shakes I offer at the studio. Each serving is around 120 calories, then add fruit for more fresh and healthy carbs. Here are more great options:
Oats are full of fiber and therefore the carbohydrates from them are released into your bloodstream gradually, keeping your energy levels constant during your workout. Oats also contain B vitamins, which are energizing, stress-reducing, and help to convert carbohydrates into energy.
Suggested serving: One cup of oatmeal.
The dried fruit in the trail mix will provide you with healthy sugars for a quick energy boost, while the seeds and nuts will prevent your insulin level from dropping. Look for a healthy mix that includes nuts and dried fruits and avoid varieties with high-sugar ingredients such as M&Ms.
Suggested serving: A half cup of trail mix.
Bananas and Apples
These are good choices for an energizing snack. Furthermore, bananas are packed with potassium, which aids in maintaining proper nerve and muscle function.
Suggested serving: One banana or one apple.
The Pre-Workout Foods Breakdown
The first rule of thumb is that pre-workout meals should be mainly composed of slow-burning complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread, rice, pasta, and cereals. This is because complex carbohydrates take longer than simple carbohydrates (like candy, soft drinks, and other junk foods) to convert to glucose, which will keep your blood sugar level consistent and prevent you from having an energy crash in the middle of your workout. With that being said, you also want to be sure that you have some protein (about 15 percent of the meal) so that you minimize any protein damage or protein breakdown during your workout. Keep fat to a minimum before workouts because fat takes the longest to digest, and therefore uses more energy than the protein and carbs.
If you’re an early riser who goes to the gym on the way to work, you won’t have enough time between leaving home and arriving at the gym to really digest a full breakfast. Your pre-workout snack is going to have to be really light. On the other hand, if you’re working out in the middle of the afternoon, your workout is going to be fueled by your choices at lunch and you’ll have a couple of hours to digest your food before hitting the gym. That means a different pre-workout meal from the one you might choose if you were scrounging around the kitchen at 5:30 a.m. on the way to the track.
The closer to your workout, the more you want to focus on eating carbohydrates rather than fat or protein. Carbohydrates are digested in the small intestines, whereas fat and protein are broken down in the stomach. This means cramping and indigestion are more likely when you work out with a belly full of fat- or protein-rich foods.
The rule is this: The less time until the workout, the less you should eat. This makes sense: It takes time to digest food, so you don’t want to scarf down a huge breakfast right before getting on the elliptical. Those planning to run the marathon on Sunday usually eat a huge dinner on Saturday night. But those planning to go for a three-mile jog at 5:30 a.m. may be fine with just an orange eaten about 20 minutes before.
With that in mind, Jackie’s prepared a list of my her favorite all-around pre-workout snacks. These work just fine whether you’re an early-morning exerciser and need something light or you’re about to head out for a workout in the late afternoon and are just looking for a little extra energy to combat the 3 p.m. crash.
Undenatured whey protein is Jackie’s favorite kind of protein powder. Not only is it extremely high-quality, bioavailable protein; it supports the immune system by providing the building blocks for glutathione, arguably the body’s most important antioxidant. And studies indicate that whey protein may boost weight loss efforts. According to one French study, eating whey before exercise supports fat burning and may help with gaining or maintaining lean body mass. Jackie suggests a whey protein shake made with either water alone or with frozen berries. The berries add fiber, nutrients and some extra carbohydrates, and make for a more delicious drink. The Isagenix shakes Jackie carries at the studio have undenatured whey protein from grass fed cows in New Zealand. This gives you the nutritional value of a raw egg, and they are delicious, low-cal and easy to make and digest! Click here for Delicious shake recipes!
Better ‘N Just Peanut Butter
This is one of Jackie’s favorite snacks, period. She takes some hearts of celery and fill in the groove with her favorite Better ‘N Peanut Butter. This snack really travels well in Tupperware and makes a terrific pre-workout snack. Why? The celery has fiber and nutrients (including calcium and vitamin A) and a ridiculously low 6 calories per medium stalk. The nut butter has protein and this brand is low fat. The overall calories are low, and this really fills you up without slowing you down, providing great “slow-release” energy for a terrific workout.
The Double A
Simply put, an apple with almonds. The apple is the perfect food for a pre-exercise snack. The sugar load is moderate, it contains valuable pectin fiber which slows the entrance of that sugar into the bloodstream, and it’s a nutritional powerhouse containing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Combine it with about a dozen almonds, which add some fat and protein. They’ll further slow the entrance of the sugar into the bloodstream for sustained energy and keep hunger away.
Here’s a tidbit of info that you might enjoy: Berries, especially blueberries, made the list of more experts than any other food as one of the healthiest things you can eat. Berries are loaded with phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, and are low in sugar. Mix a bowl of berries with an IsAgenix shake of one scoop. Or mix berries and a piece of string cheese.. The string cheese has 8 grams of protein, some fat to keep hunger at bay and only about 80 calories. And it’s an excellent source of calcium.
Obviously there are other choices besides my Jackie’s favorites. In a pinch, you can use a protein bar, though you’ll want to watch the sugar content and look out for the presence of trans-fatty acids. Hard-boiled eggs are another secret weapon in the search for portable protein that combines nicely with a little fruit (such as an apple).
Remember: What you eat after the workout is even more important than what you eat before it. That’s when your muscles are hungry and your depleted glycogen (muscle sugar) stores need replacing. The “golden hour” after the workout is the time when those muscles soak up nutrients most effectively. Choose what you eat after the workout with just as much care as you choose that pre-workout snack.
Jackie’s Fitness Tips:
- If your workout is longer than an hour, you might need to replace your carbohydrates, electrolytes, and vitamins, but for normal training sessions, drink water!
- If you feel yourself getting tired or dizzy during a workout, a quick snack is just what your body needs to reach the finish line. Go for a good, old-fashioned banana, packed with vitamin B6 fiber, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium to keep your muscles from cramping up.
- Drink water before, during and after workouts!