If you want to seriously supercharge your training sessions—you need to consume the best pre workout meals.
I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say—knowing exactly what to eat before your workout is tough.
We want to ensure that we have the energy and strength not just to power through our sets—but also to improve every possibility of building muscle and fast recovery.
I’m right, yeah?
But equally, we don’t want to be eating so much food that it has the opposite effect—leaving us feeling bloated, tired, and lethargic.
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As long as we’re selective about our pre-workout meals—our training performance can literally go off the damn scale.
And in this article—you’ll find out how.
I’ve put together both the best pre workout meals and advice on pre workout meal timing.
Ready to learn how to eat for electrically energized exercise? Let’s get down to it.
What to Eat Before Workout?
Consuming one of the best pre workout meals before you exercise is essential.
Elevated energy, post-training recovery, and efficient and impressive muscle growth require the three important macronutrients (macros)—protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Let me show you why they’re so important.
Out of the three macros, protein is the most important for the bodybuilder and one that the best pre workout meals should contain.
You already know the importance of protein in building mass—it’s essential for muscle protein synthesis, the basis of all bodybuilding. But importantly, studies have shown that ingesting protein before a workout boosts the anabolic response during training.1 2
That is, the muscles respond faster and begin to build stronger.
Consuming protein before workouts improves recovery time for up to 48 hours after the end of training. Meaning that your muscles will be ready to be pushed hard again—faster.3
And it’s not just about muscle.
If you’re working out like an absolute machine—you need fuel. Otherwise, that final set is going to be cut short, and you aren’t going to achieve impressive results.
Carbohydrates are the fuel that powers that muscle-building engine.6
That’s why they’re found in the best pre workout meals.
Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen—an easily metabolized energy source of glucose. Heavy and intense resistance training draws on these glycogen stores—giving you the power you require to take your lifting to the max.7
But, there’s an issue.
Your body doesn’t contain unlimited sources of glycogen—every single rep draws on your reserves—depleting the fuel in your tank. As this occurs, your energy levels drop and your ability to knock out that final set diminishes.8
Here’s the good news.
Loading the body with carbohydrates prior to training boosts glycogen levels, giving you the ability to push through each rep, set, and exercise—leading to impressive muscle gains.9
Although perhaps not as essential in the best pre workout meals as protein and carbs—fat still has an important role for the bodybuilder.
Firstly, this macro, like carbs, is a source of energy. While carbs are responsible for explosive short-term intense energy bursts, fats are able to provide sustained energy delivery for more moderate and lower weight exercise.10
Furthermore, if you’re looking to gain massive bulk—you need fats. Impressive size cannot be made without a calorie surplus, and fats in the best pre workout meals can provide this. What’s more, too little fat in the diet can reduce testosterone levels.11
And that’s bad.
It’s not just that your sex drive and erection quality will drop. Testosterone is a vital part of muscle protein synthesis and strength. The more you have of this anabolic hormone, the greater results you will witness.
The best pre workout meals, to a greater or lesser extent, should contain at least one of the above macros, preferably all. Pre workout meal timing is essential—consume these foods 30 minutes before your workout.
The Top 10 Best Pre Workout Foods—What to Eat 30 minutes Before Workout
Remember, you don’t want a large meal just before your workout—you need just enough to power you through your training session.
Here are the top 10 best pre workout meals.
Basically, an energy bar in a fruit. Bananas are not only high in vitality-providing carbohydrates but are also packed full of potassium. An excellent pre workout food.
2. Whey Protein Isolate
A powerful and effective way of reaching your target protein intake—making them one of the best pre workout meals.
While consuming a large steak with eggs on the side would be too much prior to a workout—knocking back a protein powder drink is simple, quick, and efficient.
What’s more, it’s the best pre workout meal for muscle gain.
These supplements contain the muscle-building branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which start the muscle building process.15
Always ensure you take isolate—not concentrate. Isolate has had virtually all the fat and lactose removed and delivers more protein gram for gram than the concentrate version.16
High in fructose—a simple carbohydrate—fruits are potent pre-workout foods. Simple carbohydrates are converted to energy fast—quicker than the complex carbs that pasta and grains provide.17
Furthermore, consuming fruit boosts blood sugar levels—which can alleviate the light-headed feeling you sometimes experience during the most intense workouts. One of the best pre workout meals you should consider.
While fruit will give you that almost instantaneous energy burst—the high fiber content of oatmeal will provide sustained energy that will last the duration of your training session.18
5. Chicken Breast
A satisfying meal that will not leave you feeling bloated. Chicken is one of the best pre workout meals—as it’s both high in protein and low in fat.
Preferably, use skinless chicken breast—unless you’re looking for a calorie surplus to bulk.19
One of the best pre workout meals for muscle gain.
6. Brown Rice
A great fiber-based carbohydrate which often contains more protein than that of its white counterpart.
7. Peanut Butter
A powerful training booster—you don’t need bread, just a spoon!
This excellent pick-me-up is useful for both energy and bulking, with its high fat and protein content. And, as an extra benefit, it’s low in sugar, meaning you won’t experience the “crash” that some energy drinks can give.22
8. White Fish, Like Halibut
A good, light food—one of my favorite best pre workout meals.
White fish is high in protein and low in fat—although its lower in omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in oily fish, like mackerel.23
9. Protein Bar
A good choice for those who don’t like consuming whey protein or who prefer the convenience of a bar in their gym bags—a good pre workout food.
Always look for one that contains at least 20 grams of protein and is low in saturated fat for a worthwhile training boost. They can, however, be costly when compared with protein powders or even chicken or fish.
These bundles of pre-workout power are low in unhealthy fat and high in protein.24
What’s more, they contain all three of the BCAAs (leucine, valine, and isoleucine) in one serving.
Best Pre Workout Meal Tips
What’s ideal for one guy’s pre-workout may not be suitable for another—it depends on your aims. Here are some quick tips.
- When looking to gain major muscle and mass, concentrate on carbohydrate, protein and fat foods—adding a spoonful of peanut butter to something such as brown rice and chicken can be an effective method.
- If you’re cutting—you need to drop the fat and carbs to have the best pre workout meal for weight loss—concentrate on the protein-rich foods to ensure you retain your lean muscle.
- The above is a list of what to eat 30 minutes before workout—select only one or two of these foods, not all!
- If you’re exercising in the morning, you can complete a fasted workout—this has the ability to burn more fat, making it ideal for cutting cycles.25
Just a quick note.
If you do undertake a fasted workout—that is, no pre workout meal morning before training—ensure you knock back either a meal or protein shake, post-training.
Not only will this replenish energy reserves—but it will also help to either build or retain muscle.
What to Eat During Workout?
If you’re really pushing your body to the max—even the best pre-workout meal may be insufficient.
Extended or seriously intense training sessions mean the body is using up its vital stores of muscle-building protein—fast.
If you’re putting in that much effort, you don’t want to let any of that punishing workout go to waste.
This is why some guys consume foods during their training session—known as intra-workout nutrition.
The best intra-workout foods are those that can promote fast muscle gain and reduce training fatigue—I’m talking about BCAA supplements or a whey protein isolate or hydrolyzed whey drink.
These potent supplements will ensure that your workout session is not curtailed, and you also achieve the maximum returns.
This isn’t for everyone—some guys just want to rehydrate during workouts—concentrating on purely pre and post-workout meals. However, for those really taking it to the limit—it can prove invaluable.
What to Eat After Workouts?
Once your session is finished, your muscles want to rebuild—so you need to feed them immediately. Your priority is to consume a whey protein isolate drink as soon as possible—the best post workout meal.
Studies have indicated that muscle protein synthesis can be boosted by up to three times when a protein powder is consumed after working out—dropping to just a 12 percent improvement if consumption is delayed.26
Furthermore, your protein synthesis is boosted in the following 24 hours after resistance training (by over 109 percent)—so in addition to this post-exercise drink—you require more to fuel those muscles throughout the night.27
Here’s the key.
After about an hour post-training, consume a meal.
This should be something which contains carbohydrates—both to replace lost glycogen and provide sufficient energy for muscle building. Most importantly, it should be a meal high in protein—the fuel of muscle protein synthesis.
A few of my favorite post-workout meals which achieve these goals are:
- Chicken breast with brown rice.
- Steak with potatoes.
- Eggs and oatmeal.
- White fish in a wholemeal bread sandwich.
- An egg omelet on brown toast with a little avocado.
- Salmon (grilled) with finely chopped sweet potato.
- Tuna (line-caught) on crackers with peanut butter.
Best Pre Workout Meals Summary
Ensuring you receive adequate nutrition before, during, and after your workouts means your training sessions will be longer, harder, and promote more impressive muscle growth.
Remember, before your workout—keep it light.
No large meals immediately before training—this is counterproductive. Concentrate on small, yet powerful pre-workout foods, as mentioned earlier in this article.
Simply the best post-workout meal is whey protein isolate—it can even be taken during and after your session. Even if you decide against the meals mentioned above—ensure you consume this immense workout supplement.
Best Pre Workout Meals FAQ
“Do You Need to Eat a Pre Workout Meal?”
You don’t need to—but if you want to achieve the maximum results from your training, it’s recommended.
The best pre workout meals boost energy, elevate recovery, kick-start muscle-building, and increase stamina.
“What Should You Avoid Eating Before Workouts?”
Firstly—whatever foods you choose in your best pre workout meals—don’t overdo it. A light meal is always preferable to avoid feeling sluggish and lethargic.
Secondly, steer away from foods which contain raffinose, such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans—which can lead to discomfort and bloating.28
“What Are the Best Supplements to Use Before Workouts?”
There are three important pre-workout supplements that should be on every bodybuilder’s shopping list. They are:
- Whey protein isolate.
- All-in-one pre workout formulas.
“Do You Need Carbs Before Workouts?”
If you’re going through a cutting phase—it may be wise to avoid the carbs and consume a pre workout meal for weight loss—such as chicken.
However, if you’re looking to amass some impressive bulk—carbs are one of the best pre workout meals, being an excellent energy provider which can stave off fatigue.
“What to Eat Before Workout to Lose Weight?”
When looking at what to eat before a workout to lose weight, it’s important you avoid carbs and fat—so no rice or bread!
Ideally, studies have shown the best way is to eat nothing—complete a fasted workout in the morning before breakfast.