What to Eat Before a Workout – 3 Strategies

What to Eat Before a Workout – 3 Strategies

Eating properly before a workout is important. The type of meal eaten pre-workout can be the difference between performing at your highest potential and coming up frustratingly short. In order to give you the basics of pre-workout nutrition OPEX Instructor, Carl Hardwick breaks down how to eat before three different types of performance-based workouts.

Caveat: The pre-workout suggestions listed below are purely for performance-based athletic clients. When working with general population clients there are other factors such as workout consistency, quality of sleep, etc. that will have a greater impact on their goals than pre-workout nutrition. Get the skills you need to work with general population clients here.

What to Eat Before Three Different Types of Workouts:

Strength and Aerobic WOrkouts (Creatine Phosphate and Aerobic)

In this scenario, the workout involves strength training and aerobic training. Think of it as some deadlifts, bench press, and then either rowing on the Concept2 or running on a treadmill at a sustainable effort. This training session is hitting two energy systems, the creatine phosphate and the aerobic energy system. Learn more about energy system training in this free course.

What to eat for this workout:

For this workout, eat 60 minutes ahead of time. In the meal shoot for:

  • 1 calorie per pound of bodyweight
  • 15% Protein
  • 55% Carbohydrates 
  • 30% Fat 

The goal of eating before this session is to activate the central nervous system (CNS), maintain blood sugar levels, and give the body some sugars in case the aerobic work begins to utilizing sugars as a fuel source.

Strength, Aerobic, and Anaerobic  (Creatine Phosphate, Aerobic, and Glycolytic)

This type of workout is very intense. This is how athletes participating in the CrossFit Open should fuel prior to the workout. Fueling for this workout will differ because of the presence of lactate, the byproduct of unsustainable work. Learn more about coaching athletes and how to increase their ability to use lactate here.

What to eat for this workout:

For this workout, eat 120 minutes ahead of time. In the meal shoot for:

  • 1 calorie per pound of bodyweight
  • 5% protein
  • 75% carbohydrate
  • 20% fat

For this pre-workout meal focus on eating 120 minutes ahead of time to make sure that the meal is totally digested so that the upper GI (gastrointestinal tract) is clear of food. This is crucial because once lactate hits the system the body will clear the upper GI tract. Ever wonder why so many new CrossFitters throw up after their workout? That may be the culprit. Another goal of this meal is to provide the body with plenty of sugars as they will be the primary fuel source for the workout.

Strength Sessions (Creatine Phosphate)

This workout is solely focused on lifting weights. These sessions focus on building absolute strength and strength speed and can include working to tough triples, a one-rep max, etc.

What to eat for this workout:

For this workout, eat 60-30 minutes ahead of time. In the meal shoot for:

  • 1 calorie per pound of bodyweight
  • 20% protein 
  • 50% carbohydrates 
  • 30% fat 

For this pre-workout meal, the time buffer can be reduced as strength training does not stress the GI tract. Goals for this meal include activating the central nervous system (CNS), maintaining blood sugar levels, providing mental acuity and amino acids to avoid catabolism. Mental acuity is important if the session is strenuous as focus is required for bracing and motor activation.

Nutrition Doesn’t End After the Workout

It’s done, the athlete smashed the workout… but now what? How are they recovering and what’s the plan for the next day? 

Learn how to create well balance nutrition strategies in our free professional coaching blueprint.



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