With the flood of low-carb diets out there, carbohydrates seem to have taken a back seat in nutritional importance to protein. This is actually a huge mistake for those looking to build muscle. Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for muscles during a strenuous workout. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscle’s cells, and are depleted as the muscle-building workout progresses. Starting a workout without fueling your muscles with the proper amount and type of carbohydrates will cause you to tire quickly.
Although carbohydrates are an important part of a pre-workout meal, all of them are not created equal. Simple carbohydrates are known as ‘simple sugars’ and are found in candy and many other processed foods. They provide your body with a quick burst of energy which depletes quickly. After they are depleted, feelings of fatigue and possible stomach cramps are experienced.
For an effective workout, your muscles need a steady stream of fuel, such as which comes from complex carbohydrates. These have little or no alteration and are found in whole grains, vegetables and other non-processed foods. Your body must exert more effort to break down these types of carbs, and absorbs them more slowly than simple carbs. This provides your body with a more sustained level of energy.
The most ideal complex carbohydrate foods to consume before a workout are:
• Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes contain 27 grams of complex carbs per cup. They also contain more potassium than bananas which is necessary for muscle contraction.
• Brown Rice: This is one of the richest sources of carbohydrates available. 1 cup provides 45 grams.
• Bananas: 1 large banana contains 31 grams of carbs. They are also packed with potassium, which aids in maintaining muscle function.
• Instant Oatmeal: 1 cup contains 30 grams of carbohydrates and high levels of B vitamins which help carbohydrates convert into glucose for energy.
Why is Protein Important Before a Workout?
Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Most people consume it after their workout to aid in muscle recovery. However, eating a small amount of protein before your workout can help reduce the risk of muscle soreness afterwards.
The most ideal sources of protein for a pre-workout meal are:
• Eggs: Eggs are an ideal source of protein because they contain high levels of protein in a small portion and are easy to digest. They contain roughly 5 to 6 grams of protein each, depending on the size.
• Fish: This is a great source of protein and essential fatty acids. Fatty acids fight fatigue and help to improve poor circulation. Since fish is very low in calories, you can get ample amounts of protein without cutting into your daily calorie allowance.
• Whey Protein Shakes: Whey is the fastest-absorbing protein available. Because of this, it is the most popular source of protein in the fitness world. Although whey is the most popular form of protein today, it lacks essential vitamins and nutrients. Be sure to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet to make up for this.
Remember, just like your car, your body needs the proper fuel in order to take it where it needs to go. By following the above guidelines and snack meal ideas, your body will always be properly fueled for any exercise routine you adapt.