You must begin with the end in mind. A proper pre-workout meal will give you:
2. Mental drive
Keep in mind that pre-workout nutritional strategies will often represent trade-offs. There is no black and white answer but are a few rules to bear in mind when making a decision.
You want low insulin for resistance training improvements
Picture insulin and cortisol as balanced on a see-saw. If one is elevated the other is depressed. Hence our typical advice against carbs consumption pre-workout as carbs raise insulin and lower cortisol to some capacity.
Higher cortisol DURING the workout correlates with greater strength gains. In fact, studies from Norway and Finland show that cortisol production is directly proportional with the amount of strength and muscle mass gains.
If you are worried about performance, keep in mind that during exercise the body runs primarily on stored glycogen. Your glycogen levels largely depend on your post-workout nutrition.
At Central Athlete, we prefer solid, real food before training and therefore suggest leaving enough time to digest—at least 45 minutes but up to 2 hours in some cases. Trial and error will be your guide here. We have experienced clients who can eat right before an intense conditioning piece, and some who need a three hour window or else they will experience nausea.
Remember that when you eat, your gastrointestinal system starts to require more energy, particularly your small intestine. You should allow your body the proper amount of time to “rest and digest” so it perform optimally in a “fight or flight” situation such as training.
Meat and nuts provide a slow rise in blood sugar, which will remain stable for an extended period of time and is often a good pre-workout meal.
If you do want to ingest a carbohydrate supplement prior to training - the fruits listed below do not spike insulin, hence they are good choices pre-workout: Grapefruit, Apricot, Apples, Cherries, Pear, Plum, Cantaloupe, Nectarine, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries and Oranges.
This concept is highly individualized and these are only general principles. To find out which pre-workout strategy is best for you schedule a with one our health and fitness consultants.