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Pre-Workout Meals

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Working out at 4:30 A.M. every morning I’ve experimented with all kinds of pre workout meals.  From shakes to bread and If you’re like me and on a tight budget you don’t want to spend the extra money to buy a pre-workout supplement.(Update: As of July 2012 I’ve been using Beachbody’s Endurance and Energy Pre-Workout formula.  It provides just the right amount of “pick me up” and it has been key to my Body Beast workouts)  So, I did some research and found some great pre-workout “snacks” to fuel your body and your workouts without busting your budget. Whether your doing a round of P90X or Insanity, you need to make sure that you eat the  right foods beforehand in order to maximize your efforts and results.  In  addition to ensuring that you are properly hydrated by drinking 20 ounces of  water an hour before working out ( I usually drink approx. 10 ounces 30 minutes before), as well as replenishing lost fluids during and  after your workout, you should also have an adequate meal to keep your energy levels high. Pre-exercise meals should be mainly composed of  “slow-burning” complex carbs, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread,  rice, pasta, and cereals.  Given that they are your body’s main  source of energy, 65% to 70% of the total calories of your pre-workout meal  should come from carbs.  Complex carbs take longer 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. In addition, 15% of the total calories of your meal should come  from protein.  Because fat takes longer to digest, and therefore uses more energy than protein and carbs, it should be kept to a minimum immediately before a  workout. Avoid simple sugars, such as candy, in the hour before your  workout. They can send your blood sugar level shooting down, leading to a severe drop in energy. Another factor in  deciding what to eat is the amount of time between your meal and your workout.  A big meal of 1,000 to 1,500 calories takes three to four hours to digest and convert into energy, whereas a smaller meal of about 600 calories will take two  to three hours. A small snack under 300 calories will only take about an  hour. Here are 9 foods that will give you the kick you need to make it  through your workout.


The bioactive compounds tyramine and phenylethylamine found  in chocolate can provide you with an energy boost for an intense exercise  session.  However, chocolate is packed with sugar, calories, fat, and caffeine,  so don’t go overboard. Your best bet is dark chocolate; it contains the fewest  calories and the most antioxidants. What to eat: 1 snack-sized  Hershey bar (70  calories, 9 grams carbs, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fat).

Bananas and other fruits

Although it is widely believed that the sugar  in bananas can make you fat, it is actually a very digestible form of  carbohydrate.  Furthermore, bananas are packed with potassium, which aids in  maintaining proper nerve and muscle function. Since your body doesn’t store this  nutrient for long periods, an intense workout is enough to make your potassium  level drop.  Apples, peaches, pineapples, and grapes are also good choices for an  energizing snack. What to eat: 1 medium banana (105 calories, 27  grams carbs, 1 gram protein, 0.5 gram fat).

Trail mix

Trail mix is a great source of phosphorous and zinc.  The  first promotes muscle growth and boosts energy, and the second speeds up muscle healing.  Look for  a healthy mix that includes nuts and dried fruits; avoid varieties with  high-sugar ingredients such as M&Ms.  The dried fruit will provide you with  healthy sugars for a quick energy boost, while the seeds and nuts will prevent  your insulin  level from dropping.  Just beware of quantity; although the fat in trail mix is  “healthy” fat, it can still cause you to pack on the pounds. What to  eat: Half-cup trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit (300 calories, 26  grams carbs, 10 grams protein, 18 grams fat).  I perfer a handful of Ann’s House Good Health Energy Blend or Chocolate Nut Antioxident.


The magnesium in yogurt can give you an energy kick for your workout as it activates enzymes that are involved in the metabolism of protein  and carbs.  It also provides the explosive source of energy used for lifting weights.  Therefore, yogurt is a good choice before both cardio and weightlifting  sessions. What to eat: 8 ounces low-fat plain yogurt (130  calories, 15 grams carbs, 11 grams protein, 3 grams fat).  I perfer Danan Okios Plain Greek Yogurt.

Energy bars

There are many types of energy bars out there. Some contain mostly protein, whereas others are  composed largely of carbohydrates.  In order to boost your energy before a  workout, choose a bar that  leans more toward carbs, such as Lara bar. Although bars may be  a little more difficult to digest than gels, they have the added advantage of  being packed with a balance of essential nutrients.  Lara bars usually contain less than 4 natural ingredents such as dates, cashews, almonds, raisins and apples. What to eat:  Lara Bars (190 calories, 24 grams carbs, 4 grams protein, 10 grams fat).


Since oats are full of fiber, they are low on the glycemic index. Therefore, the carbs are released into your bloodstream gradually, keeping your energy levels constant during your workout.  They also contain B  vitamins, which are energizing, stress-lowering, and help to convert carbs into  energy. What to eat: 1 cup of oatmeal (145 calories, 25 grams  carbs, 6 grams protein, 2 grams fat).


If you’re paying attention, you might be wondering why you were  told to avoid fat before a workout and are now being told to eat almonds, which are full of fat.  The difference is that the monounsaturated fats  found in almonds and other nuts provide energy-boosting essential fatty acids such as omega-3s and  omega-6s.  The fats you should be avoiding before exercising are saturated ones like cheese and butter, which will make you tired and lethargic. What  to eat: 12 almonds (83 calories, 3 grams carbs, 3 grams protein, 7 grams  fat).  I perfer Whole Natural Almonds.


Although many have written off pasta due to the anti-carb trend, it remains a great source of complex carbs, which help increase  stored energy (glycogen) in the muscles.  When your glycogen stores are depleted,  your body starts  relying on anaerobic metabolism for energy, which makes your workout much more difficult.  Stick to whole-wheat pasta and keep your portions small or allow two  to three hours for digestion before your workout. What to eat:  Half-cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti (87 calories, 19 grams carbs, 4 grams  protein, 0.5 gram fat).


Lentils are a great source of carbs, protein,  fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, calcium, and copper.  They  will provide you with a great pre-workout energy boost and they’re also low in  fat and calories, so they make for a great all-around snack.  If you’re not used  to them, start with a small portion.  You don’t want to end up with a bad case of  gas and get kicked out of the gym. What to eat: 1 cup boiled  lentils (290 calories, 40 grams carbs, 18 grams protein, 1 gram fat).

it’s snack time…

Now that you know what it takes to get that boost of  energy for a workout, there’s no excuse for not working out.   Also, don’t forget to hydrate yourself adequately before, during and after your  exercise session.  You’ll be surprised at the difference proper nutrition can  make — you’ll feel better, work harder and get better results. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

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