A Beginner’s Guide to Pre-Workout Nutrition

Nutrition is essential to any successful workout program, and any successful nutrition plan begins with breakfast.  This guide will pinpoint some of the most essential pre-workout nutrients and supplements available to help you achieve peak performance in your workout.

| Pre-Workout Nutrition


While there are varying approaches to carbohydrates in the fitness industry, there is no argument that calculated carbohydrate consumption can provide a high-quality source of fuel.  The human body prefers to use carbohydrates as its primary fuel source.  More high-quality fuel for your body to burn means having better results in the gym.


The goal when eating carbohydrates is to ensure that your body is using every gram as an immediate fuel source or to restore glycogen levels.  If you don’t eat more carbs than you need, and you eat the majority of your carbs around your workout, you can prevent your body from storing carbs as fat.

Ideally, a meal including complex carbohydrates, such as stone-rolled oats, whole-grains, and vegetables, will be consumed several hours before your workout.  This will allow time for your glycogen and blood sugar levels to become full for your workout.  While the sugar in fruits technically make them simple carbohydrates, fruit is considered complex in nature, and can easily be implemented into any healthy breakfast.  Consuming 40-50 grams of carbs shortly before a workout can drastically improve your performance.


According to Dr. KJ Hackney at Michigan State University, consuming pre-workout protein increases resting energy expenditure by an average of 6.5% for up to 48 hours.  The study also showed that pre-workout protein consumption was directly associated with sustained increased plasma cortisol concentration, the response to which is similar to that seen of a growth hormone.  This sustained cortisol was not observed in control groups.


Protein is made of branched-chain amino acids, commonly referred to as BCAAs.  Whey protein, which has a considerably higher concentration of BCAAs than other sources of protein, is widely considered to be the best available source of protein prior to training.

Protein and amino acids can fuel your body when carbohydrates can’t.  When the body runs out of carbohydrate fuel, a process known as gluconeogenesis rapidly breaks amino acids down into sugar, allowing it to provide fuel.  Without these amino acids available in your blood supply, your body reverts to breaking down muscle for energy; any fitness enthusiast’s worst nightmare.


For high-intensity athletes, such as weightlifters, chasing strength gains and participating in strenuous hypertrophy training, creatine monohydrate, which increases creatine phosphate storage, will provide your body with extra fuel used solely in high-intensity workouts.  While the timing of creatine intake is not essential to its success, implementing this supplement into your pre-workout breakfast can produce more strength in the weight room and “fuller” looking muscles due to increased water retention.

Beta Alanine

A core cause of fatigue is intramuscular acidosis, which can be combated by beta alanine consumption.  Beta alanine conserves muscular energy by countering lactic acid production with L-carnosine production.  In addition to this key benefit, beta alanine acts as an antioxidant.

Author: James R. Harrison

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