Don’t think you’re alone if you find sports nutrition confusing…with all the health coaches, trainers, and bloggers in the world today nutrition can definitely become overwhelming! I want to jump right into pre-workout snacks, the reason they even exist, and why it may take your performance to the next level!
The WHY behind pre-workout fueling is to allow glycogen stores to be “topped off” prior to usage.
Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, and is stored in our liver and muscles. Glucose is the most elemental form of carbohydrates and can be found in the blood. Together, glycogen and glucose provide roughly half the energy for moderate-intensity exercise and about two thirds the energy for high intensity exercise. As we now know, glucose is a readily available form of energy and also our bodies #1 preferred source…so we want this storage tank in our muscles and liver to be full! Without sufficient carbohydrate stores, energy requirements (adenosine triphosphate, ATP) cannot be met. However, when we fuel our carbohydrate stores well, steady energy can reach the brain, active muscles, tissues, nerves, etc. and allow for quick movement and reactions to occur.
When looking at snack options, lets keep it simple! Three components will get you going on the right track, so seek out 1) good carbohydrate sources for glucose 2) a small amount of fat for satiety and to stabilize blood sugar levels so it doesn’t spike and drop too early 3) low fiber content- no one needs their bowels moving during a run with no bathroom in site. Carbohydrates sources do come in multiple categories; low, medium, and high glycemic index foods to be exact. (If you have confusion on what the glycemic index is click here). All three categories of carbohydrates are desirable for active individuals, and can be used at different nutrient timing stages.
Low glycemic index carbs are beans or yogurt for example, foods that give slow and steady energy. Medium GI carbs are orange juice, white rice, or sweet potatoes and high GI carbs are fresh fruit, gels, squeezes, etc. If you’re training is in the afternoon and you’re able to consume a full meal 3-4 hours before, try combining all 3 types of carbs. This will allow your glycogen levels to be full prior to exercise, and also steady energy to keep you fueled right up to your activity. If training is in the early morning, or you only have 30 minutes and need a quick snack, stick to easily digestible high glycemic index carbohydrates. High glycemic index foods provide immediate energy due to their easy absorption, and thus will give you the quick fuel your muscles are looking for!
Nutrient timing is very specific to the individual, and thus will differ from person to person. I have had athletes who can eat a whole pizza right before exercise and others who won’t touch food if it’s within an hour of activity. Nutrient digestion and tolerance is the deciding factor of pre workout fueling, so I always recommend to clients to trial this out WELL BEFORE competing in any race or event. The day of your competition should not be the time to “try out” new training strategies.
7 Simple Pre-Workout Snacks: That will get the job done
Banana and nut butter
Overnight oats & berries
Toast w/nut butter and berries
Black Bean Wrap
Dried fruit & nuts