Die perfekte Pre-Workout-Ernährung

The perfect pre-workout nutrition

The timing of nutrient intake in sports can make a big difference in training and competition performance for ambitious athletes. For example, pre-workout and immediate post-workout meals are particularly important to optimally support performance. While post-workout nutrition serves to replenish depleted energy, as well as water and glycogen, and to stimulate protein synthesis through sufficient protein, pre-workout nutrition is primarily intended to improve acute performance. But which nutrients are critical and when is the ideal timing?

After the workout is before the workout

Strictly speaking, pre-workout nutrition starts with the meal after your last workout. If you don't get enough calories and carbohydrates there, your glycogen stores won't be completely filled until your next workout. This process takes several hours to days, depending on the workout, so even the best pre-workout nutrition alone won't be enough.

Especially if you train with a high frequency, the post-workout nutrition, respectively the composition of the evening meal plays a big role for the performance of the next session. Thus, you can consider the meal after a session as a meal before the next session, which also has a direct influence on the performance by slowly replenishing the glycogen stores. However, the term pre-workout nutrition (or pre-workout for short) is more narrowly understood to refer to the meal immediately before the workout.

3-4 hours before training

A few hours before training, medium-chain carbohydrates should be eaten together with protein. Unlike long-chain carbohydrates, these can be digested and utilized more quickly. Nevertheless, it is likely that not all of the carbohydrates supplied at this time can actually fill the glycogen stores. Therefore, combining the pre-workout meal with the pre-workout meal is crucial to get an ideal "carbohydrate profile" for your workout. Good sources of carbohydrates on training day are rice or rice cakes, pasta or brown bread. You can also supplement with short-chain carbohydrates such as jam, fruit or white bread.

Since the meal is already taken a few hours before the training, it may be larger and contain all the important nutrients in the context of your individual diet. Therefore, also reach for protein sources so that you can have a continuous level of amino acids throughout the day and during training, from which muscle proteins can ultimately be produced. Make sure that your fat intake is adequate. Even though fat as an energy source is mainly relevant for longer endurance sessions and has little influence on your acute performance in strength training, high-quality fats and oils should always be part of your overall diet and be served regularly.

Overall, however, the meal should be easily digestible and take into account your individual tolerance of different foods. A steak with beans and fried potatoes can provide you with a lot of important nutrients, but it may be hard on your stomach during training and can put too much strain on your digestion. Different preparation methods can make a big difference. For example, avoid searing and seasoning the meat and swap the fried potatoes for jacket potatoes and the beans for a salad for a lighter, yet complete meal.

1 hour before workout

How long before your workout your last meal should be varies from individual to individual. If you can and want to have a solid meal right before your workout, it should be especially easy to digest and not too substantial. A good option is a banana, toast with jam or a protein bar. Here, focus on carbohydrates with a medium to high glycemic index, i.e. rather short chain length, in order to benefit directly from the intake. A high glycemic index stands for a rapid rise in blood sugar and a quick availability of energy. Unlike the meals before, the carbohydrate supply before the training can thus ensure the energy supply via the blood sugar directly and without "detours" via the glycogen as a form of storage.

But be careful: too much high-glycemic carbohydrate can cause blood sugar fluctuations and thus performance losses. Blood glucose rises quickly after a high-sugar meal, but drops again very quickly due to consumption during exercise and insulin secretion. As a result, the initial energy is often quickly used up and can impair your performance. However, this effect also varies from individual to individual. For example, some athletes swear by their half bar of chocolate before training without noticing any restrictions in their training.

On the other hand, those who are sensitive to solid food before training can also consume carbohydrates in liquid form. For example, try a homemade shake made from milk or a plant-based drink, fruit of your choice and some protein powder if you like. Alternatively, you can drink a pre-workout booster and add some maltodextrin to it if it doesn't contain carbohydrates yet.

The booster

The pre-workout booster provides you with food components that have a direct influence on your training. Thus, ergogenic substances such as caffeine or taurine can positively influence the concentration and performance and increase the mental focus on the training. Furthermore, the booster contains amino acids, which, however, are not primarily used as building materials, but also serve to improve performance and the feeling of training. These substances include blood circulation-increasing substances such as arginine or citrulline or tyrosine, which supports the nervous system in the conduction of stimuli.

Many boosters nevertheless contain amino acids, which directly serve the muscle building, as well as the reduction of a catabolic metabolism during training. These include, for example, the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or essential amino acids (EAAs). In addition, B vitamins and various plant extracts are often found in boosters, which can further support the metabolism. Taking a pre-workout booster can therefore improve your training performance but also your focus on training.

During the workout

It can also make sense to add carbohydrates and other nutrients during training. While in short sessions or low intensity water as a drink is sufficient, in longer and more demanding workouts nutrient intake can be supportive. In contrast to endurance sports, where a banana or bar is often consumed during longer sessions, it is more common in strength and fitness sports to drink the nutrients.

Thus, a good "intra-workout" with medium and short-chain carbohydrates can support the pre-workout meal sensibly and counteract the falling blood sugar level. Furthermore, amino acids can also serve as a pool for protein synthesis as well as energy production, ensuring consistent performance throughout the workout. Electrolytes such as calcium and magnesium serve to provide adequate supply and energy during intense trianing and greater sweat loss.

Drinking

It is advisable to drink enough with all meals and in between, and ideally not to let thirst arise during training. Even a 1 percent lack of fluid can have a significant effect on your performance. Therefore, make sure you drink enough fluids before, during and after your workout, especially when it's hot and you sweat a lot.

Water is ideal for short workouts and to accompany solid meals. If you rely solely on a liquid meal before training, you should also drink carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients as mentioned above. Fluids from shakes, fruit or boosters are also part of the water balance and support your hydration.

Conclusion

Pre-training nutrition can have positive effects on your training performance. Especially carbohydrates, amino acids and water improve your performance and give you the necessary power during training. In addition, an intra-workout consisting of additional carbohydrates and electrolytes can be useful in order to be able to call up a constant performance even during longer sessions.

Pre-workout boosters increase focus and pump during training, but should not be used too frequently. Especially with a high training frequency, post-workout nutrition also has a direct impact on performance in the next session.

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