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Fuelling your return to the gym- Pre-training nutrition.

I'm sure many of us are really looking forward to getting back in the gym or even if this will be a new experience for you it's really important to fuel your body correctly for optimal performance and asthetic results.

Just a quick note on going at it too hard from the get go. It's so tempting to start smashing into the heavy lifts but go easy for a couple of weeks. You won't be able to train if you are walking like John Wayne and can't even scratch your nose for fear of your arm falling off.

Consider some full body sessions over body splits to begin with so as to not overwork an individual muscle group.


Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.

Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout. However, the ratio in which you need to consume them varies by the individual and type of exercise

Below is a brief look at the role of each macronutrient.


Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel.

Glycogen is the way the body processes and stores glucose, mainly in the liver and muscles.

For short- and high-intensity exercise, your glycogen stores are your muscles’ main source of energy.

But for longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors. These include the intensity, type of training and your overall diet

Your muscles glycogen stores are limited. As these stores become depleted, your output and intensity diminish. So fuelling with carbs before your training will boost carb oxidation during exercise


Many studies have documented the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to improve athletic performance.

Eating protein prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis

One study showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 grams of whey protein before exercise

Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include:

  • A better anabolic response, or muscle growth

  • Improved muscle recovery

  • Increased strength and lean body mass

  • Increased muscle performance


While glycogen is used for short- and high-intensity bouts of exercise, fat is the source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise

Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake on athletic performance. However, these studies looked at high-fat diets over a long period, rather than prior to exercise

A keto style diet can be beneficial for ultra marathon runners for example staying at a moderate to low intensity. However type 11b muscle fibres (these fire up when a quick push of strength and power is needed) cannot engage without the presence of glucose (carbs) so being mindful of that and its implications for your chosen sport are key.

To summarize

Carbs help maximize glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise, while fat helps fuel your body for longer, less intense workouts. Meanwhile, protein improves muscle protein synthesis and aids recovery.

The timing of your meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition.

To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat 2–3 hours before you exercise.

However, in some cases, you may not be able to get in a full meal 2–3 hours before working out.

In that case, then you can still eat a decent pre-workout meal. However, keep in mind that the sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and simpler the meal should be.

If you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein.

This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.

Some examples of pre-workout meals

Which foods and how much to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of the workout. A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise. If you eat fat with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before your workout Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals:

If Your Workout Starts Within 2–3 Hours or More

  • Sandwich on whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad

  • Egg omelet and whole-grain toast topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit

  • Lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables

If Your Workout Starts Within 2 Hours

  • Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries

  • Whole-grain cereal and milk

  • A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds

  • Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread

If Your Workout Starts Within an Hour or Less

  • Greek yogurt and fruit

  • Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients

  • A piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or appleI

For best results, experiment with different timings and nutrient compositions.

For those individuals who train early in the morning and don't have time to eat and digest like myself. I like to use an electrolytes and carbs drink to fuel my training session then refuel with a minimum of 20g of protein post workout within my chosen breakfast .

A combination of carbs and protein is recommended for pre-workout meals. Fat can also be beneficial, but it should be consumed at least two hours before exercise.

I will be writing a blog on post training nutrition shortly.

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