A healthy diet is crucial for building muscle mass and cutting body fat. When combined with exercise, you can better sculpt your figure and look more fit.
But there’s a problem.
By the time your work shift is over or when you wake up first thing in the morning, you’re exhausted.
You don’t have the energy to hit the gym, let alone power through a 30-minute run outside or an hour-long stint on the stationary bike.
It turns out — your diet is more important than you thought.
What you eat in the few hours before you exercise can make or break your endurance, strength, and power for that workout.
So it’s time to go over the five best pre-workout foods that’ll boost your stamina.
You might already know that glucose is your body’s primary source of energy. But you may be unaware of where your body actually gets this glucose.
For the most part, it’s carbohydrates.
Complex carbs from foods like brown rice and potatoes supply long-term energy throughout your workout. They’re especially perfect if you’re a distance runner or elite athlete.
But they also take a long time to break down and digest.
So for a quick jolt of energy, consider adding fruit to your pre-workout snack.
Fruits like bananas, blueberries, and apples are “simple carbs.” That means they break down quickly and you’ll avoid spiking blood sugar mid-workout.
In essence, they’re perfect for short workouts and near-immediate energy.
Make a delicious fruit smoothie 30 minutes before your workout, and you’ll have energy like never before!
Plus, if you’re short on time, you can snack on some berries on the ride to the gym.
Simple carbs are great for short workouts.
But when your workout extends past that 30-minute or hour-mark, you’re going to start feeling sluggish and tired.
That means you’ll need complex carbs that’ll supply you with a steady stream of energy during those long workouts.
What you might need is a delicious bowl of pasta.
Pasta makes a great pre-workout meal two to three hours before a challenging workout. And you don’t need more than a cup or two to get the full stamina benefits!
Select a whole grain pasta, add a light sauce, and pair it with a protein source — like unseasoned meatballs or grilled chicken.
The light tomato sauce can keep heartburn at bay.
The small amount of protein will fuel your muscles for optimal performance.
And eating the bowl of pasta several hours before your workout will keep you from cramping up or feeling weighed down during your training.
When you think about “carbs” and “energy,” you likely think of bread or grains.
And while a few slices of toast before a gym workout will leave you feeling energized and ready to take on the treadmill, it becomes bland quite quickly.
So try bagels before your next workout, instead.
A bagel is the perfect combination of complex carbs (for energy) and taste.
You can even add simple carb toppings to your bagel so that your body will have energy at the very beginning of your workout, all the way to the very end.
A whole-grain bagel pairs nicely with things like:
- Peanut butter (which has protein too!)
- Jellies or jams
- Light cream cheese
Though the thought of whole-grain anything might be disappointing, there’s a ton of science to back up the benefits.
Whole grains have far more nutrients than refined grains. They digest slowly for more consistent energy stores, and can even lower your risk of heart disease.
What’s not to love?
If you’re the type to hit the gym first thing in the morning, then you know what it’s like to feel your energy deplete a quarter of the way through your run.
You don’t have to be a big breakfast eater to see energy in your morning workouts.
Just start the day with a light bowl of oatmeal.
Oatmeal, which is also a “whole grain,” makes a fantastic pre-workout meal, especially if you’re eating it an hour before a big workout.
But plain oatmeal doesn’t sound all that appetizing, does it?
Luckily, you can always spice up the oatmeal flavor. Try sprinkling chocolate protein powder on top, adding fruit slices, or mixing it with a scoop of peanut butter.
What better way to get energy for both short and long workouts?
While keeping you fueled during a long workout, oatmeal can also help you feel “full” and avoid annoying hunger pangs during exercise.
5. Peanut Butter
It seems like anyone serious about their physique squeezes peanut butter into their eating plan in some way or another.
And there’s a good reason for it.
Peanut butter is high in fat — the good kind — and protein. But just like bananas, peanut butter is also a decent source of an electrolyte known as potassium.
Sneaking a scoop of peanut butter into your pre-workout meal can replenish the electrolytes you’ll lose during sweat. Not to mention, the protein will keep your muscles thriving.
Alongside carbs, peanut butter is a more powerful pre-workout snack for energy.
So spread some peanut butter on slices of whole wheat bread, add a dollop to your banana, or use it as a dip for your apple slices.
You’ll be on top of your game during your next workout session.
Another Option: Caffeine
You’ve heard for years now that caffeine was bad for you. Come to find out — caffeine is actually one of the best pre-workout supplements.
Studies show that caffeine can increase energy levels, improve speed, and build your resistance to fatigue.
So a cup of coffee or tea within 90 minutes of working out just might be what the doctor ordered before a challenging workout.
Just don’t drink it too close to bedtime if you want a restful night’s sleep!
How you fuel your body pre-workout will determine whether you can go bigger, stronger, and faster in the gym.
But what you eat after your workout is even more critical.
You need to replenish the nutrients you lost in sweat and help your muscles to repair themselves.
So your post-workout meal should be whole foods — specifically those high in protein, healthy carbs, and good fats!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch at Bloomington to help them with their online marketing.