Suppose you are looking to maximize your performance at the gym every day and enhance your muscle recovery after working out. In that case, a pre-workout meal is something you should not ignore.
In fact, researchers have started viewing pre-workout meals as even more important than post-workout nutrition when building muscle. This is primarily due to the more remarkable muscle protein synthesis during and after the workout when an adequate amount of morning pre-workout meal is ingested.
So, considering this, we will tell you the most optimized pre-workout meals for muscle growth, based on current scientific research and literature and our fundamental understanding of proteins, carbs, and fats and their functions. Before we get to that, let's first understand what an excellent pre-workout meal is and its actual benefits?
Pre Workout Meal: What do we mean by it?
A pre-workout meal or a morning pre-workout meal is any meal you consume within two hours before your workout session.
A good meal of this kind has two significant goals -
1. It provides energy and boosts performance during the workout. This directly translates into better performance during the training as far as a person's strength is concerned.
2. To adequately supply your muscles with amino acids to maximize muscle growth and minimize muscle catabolism during and after a workout.
With this in mind, let's move forward and understand what an optimal amount of protein, fats, and carbs look like.
The optimal amount of protein, carbs, and fats
The primary function of protein in your morning pre-workout meal is to elevate your plasma and amino acid levels in order to maximize muscle recovery and growth. In fact, several studies show that when protein is a part of someone's morning pre-workout meal, protein synthesis levels in those people were elevated significantly more than if any placebo was used.
But how exactly does this relate to muscle growth as well as strength?
Well, a study conducted by Johnson et al. across 33 male subjects showed that the pre-workout meal supplementation consisting of 20 grams of whey protein and 6 grams of leucine resulted in a tremendous increase in maximal strength and lower body resistance training over eight weeks when compared to a placebo.
Although the researchers did not find any significant change in muscle growth between these groups, in reality, when proteins and carbs are combined as a part of your morning pre-workout meal, it provides the best results for muscle growth.
What's the best type of protein in a pre-workout meal?
When it comes to suggesting the best type of protein, it should be a fast-digesting protein that contains a higher amount of leucine.
This is because, in a study shown by Callier et al., fast-digesting protein is ideal to rapidly spike amino acid levels for workouts. Leucine is perhaps one of the only types of protein that seems to do an excellent job in this context.
Some other foods that meet this criterion are whey protein and egg whites.
Now, coming to carbs. In context to a pre-workout meal, carbs' primary function is maintaining muscle glycogen level. More importantly, carbs also help boost exercise performance.
When you combine carbs with protein in your morning pre-workout meal, you are actually creating one of the most optimal and most anabolic environments for muscle growth during and after the workout.
A study by Wolfe RR examined the effects of ingesting a multi-nutrient supplement just 30 minutes before a workout consisting of proteins and carbs with a little bit of fat. Researchers found that the supplement group significantly improved their vertical jump power, and the overall number of repetitions performed at 80% of their one-repetition max when compared to the placebo group.
In addition, the supplement group even exhibited a significantly higher serum level of both - growth hormones and total testosterone during and after a workout.
This clearly indicates that consuming a pre-workout meal consisting of proteins and carbs can create a favorable anabolic hormonal environment in addition to its performance-enhancing effects.
What's the best type of carbs in a pre-workout meal?
The best type of carbs to incorporate into your morning pre-workout meals is a somewhat controversial topic. Research, however, seems to suggest that higher glycemic index foods are better overall for a weight training program. At the same time, lower glycemic index foods are best suited for long endurance training.
However, experts suggest that you should really experiment with both types to see which one responds best to your body and your exercise regime. It depends from person to person, what will actually work out for them!
Examples of higher glycemic index foods are - rice cakes, bananas, white potatoes. While you consume them, keep in mind to lower your fiber intake, especially before a workout. Fiber often presents our bodies with a feeling of fullness, negatively affecting our performance.
Coming to fats, we are going to keep it pretty simple. Fats will play virtually no role at all in contributing to your workout. This directly comes from extensive research conducted by scientists at Deakin University.
They conclude that fats have absolutely no beneficial effects on exercise performance.
Unlike carbs, fats take a while to digest and will not boost your muscle glycogen levels, nor will they aid in protein synthesis. Therefore, adding fats to your morning pre-workout meal will most likely just make you feel fuller. So, we suggest relatively low as a part of your pre-workout meal.
You can ingest them as a part of other meals during the day.
Meal optimized for muscle growth and performance.
So, what does a pre-workout meal optimized specially for performance and muscle growth actually look like?
Your pre-workout meal should satisfy all the criteria mentioned above based on the studies.
Therefore, it should consist of
1. A fast-digesting leucine-containing protein. Adding at least 20 grams of protein from egg whites is perfect.
2. For a moderate to high glycemic index on your pre-workout meal plate, add 50 grams from a few plain rice cakes with minimum fiber. You can also top them up with a banana.
For most people, 20 grams of protein and approximately 40-50 grams of carbs should be sufficient for their perfect morning pre-workout meal. However, if you are heavier, consider increasing their overall quantity.
This pre-workout meal should be sufficient for maximizing your performance during a workout and enhancing overall protein synthesis. Also, feel free to add any form of toppings to enhance your taste levels and eating experience.
Here are a few more options for that perfect plate of your morning pre-workout meal:
1. Moderate - high glycemic index based carbs:
a. White potato
b. White rice
Fast digesting protein with leucine.
a. Egg whites
b. Whey protein
You can mix and match the protein with any of these carbs to get optimal results during your workout.
Note: Although whey protein and egg whites seem to be the only sources of fast-digesting proteins with leucine. You can also go ahead and add other sources of protein like chicken, turkey, or fish. They are relatively slow when it comes to digestion speed but do an equally outstanding job.
Now, finally, let's talk about fasted training. Pre-workout meals are more likely to enhance your performance and strength during a workout. Therefore, it is ideal when you are bulking and want to maximize your power and muscle gain. As far as fasted training goes, it has been shown to offer certain anabolic benefits as well. So, it can be tough to tell which one is actually better.
No one thing can work out for everyone on the planet. So, try out both - pre-workout meals before you hit the gym and fasted training. Feel free to test it out and see which one shows the best results for your body. Decide what should be ideally done by you based on your performance - whether you perform better when fed or perform better when you do not eat anything before your workout.
Ask yourself the question - do you lift better and heavier when in a fasted state or when you are fed? This will vary depending on your body type and your personal preference as well as requirements.
So, there you go! This is how your perfect morning pre-workout meal should look! Feel free to try this out and see the difference in your overall performance the next time you hit the weights.
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