Depending on what time of the day you go to the gym, a pre-workout meal may not be a choice. For example, some people have a work schedule that will only allow them to train after dinner. But while having to eat a number of meals by that time of the day – and right before you work out – may be a given, what you eat will be your own choice.
There are people who cannot hold anything down in their stomachs while putting themselves through a grueling workout. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself falls into this category, and The Austrian Oak did not even drink water while he was in the gym. That is not advised, but it worked for him.
So if you go to the gym first thing in the morning, a protein shake or bar may be all that you have time for. For many competitive bodybuilders, doing cardio on an empty stomach is part of their contest prep to shed even more fat. That is a bit extreme for most of us and will leave you feeling like crap.
What you want to do ideally is to take in enough food for energy and endurance in the gym, and the main component for that are carbohydrates. Yep, those carbs that people say make you fat can actually help you in losing weight and looking good.
The reason is that ‘good’ carbs are very different from the shitty ones that can and will make you look out of shape. The low-glycemic/complex variety that should be a part of your diet are oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa and vegetables. Simple carbs like white bread and sugary cereals will make you feel sluggish and do the exact opposite once that initial rush runs out.
While complex carbs are important for your pre-workout meal, protein should also be included, as it helps with muscle building and is used as a secondary source for energy once your carbs are depleted. As for fats, try to keep them to a bare minimum for your pre-workout meal and go with the healthy (or non-saturated) ones. They will bring down your energy even quicker than the bad carbs will.
Here are a few options for you for pre-workout meals, which you should eat 30-to-60 minutes before arriving at the gym:
For pre-workout purposes, a fast digesting type such as whey protein is best and you should use a brand that gives you at least 20 grams per serving.
Use plain oatmeal but feel free to add raisins and a half or full scoop of protein powder to add nutrients and flavor.
GREEK NON-FAT YOGURT
Twice the protein as regular yogurt and you can add some fruit (if you are using plain) and granola to give it a little kick and make it more of a meal.
LOW OR NON-FAT COTTAGE CHEESE AND FRUIT
This is a tough sell, as cottage cheese is an acquired taste at best. Add fresh fruit to mask the disgusting flavor.
PROTEIN PANCAKES WITH FRUIT AND NUTS
There are some brands out there that taste delicious and they are low-carb, as well. The fruit and nuts will give you energy and use something such as nut butter instead of regular butter. Why bother eating healthy and then fuck it all up with that?
GRILLED CHICKEN BREAST, SWEET POTATO AND VEGETABLES
They don’t call this the bodybuilder’s meal for nothing! Pretty much the perfect meal if you do it right. Eat the potato – skin and all – without any butter and leave the veggies steamed and plain.
GROUND TURKEY, BROWN RICE AND VEGETABLES
Similar to the above, this is a full meal that is packed with protein and good carbs.