The perfect pre workout meal: 5 steps to properly fuel before exercise

The perfect pre workout meal: 5 steps to properly fuel before exercise

Providing our bodies with the correct type of fuel at the right time is such an important aspect in a training programme. The perfect pre work out meal does not only help you maximise your performance during your training session, but it also helps to minimise muscle damage, limits immune system suppression and finally sets the stage for a faster recovery following your workout.

The energy currency of our muscles is Adenosine triphosphate or ATP. Production of this molecule by our energy systems is vital, as it is the only energy source used for muscle contraction. The body does not store ATP as such, the muscles and liver store glycogen, which can be used by the energy systems.

However, the body is continuously replenishing ATP, which is one reason why we should not exercise without eating. You would not be able to get a car to start without petrol, so don’t expect the same of your body!


Eating and exercise go hand in hand, so when planning your day try to eat no less than 2 hours before exercising. The 5 steps we consider when planning our pre workout meal are:

1. Complex carbohydrates

Your body needs more carbohydrates than any other nutrient; it is broken down by the digestive system into glucose, your brain and body’s primary fuel. There are two different categories of carbohydrate, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are usually in the form of processed white grains such flour, pasta, rice, bread but also includes sugar.

Complex Carbohydrates include wholegrain breads and pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, beans, peas and lentils.

Complex carbohydrates are preferable as they take longer for the digestive system to break down and release energy more slowly thus maintaining your energy levels for longer. They also boast a substantial amount of fibre and vitamins and minerals which simple carbohydrates do not.

2. Protein

Protein is one of the building blocks of cell tissue, it is therefore part of every cell, tissue and organ. In terms of a workout it is important as it is involved in the building and repair of muscle as well as being used as a fuel source when carbohydrate stores are low.

Protein is broken down by the digestive system into amino acids, nine of which are deemed essential as the body cannot make them, therefore they must be consumed through diet.

3. Vitamins

Vitamin taken by its latin derivative means life amine, they act as coenzymes and precursors of enzymes in the regulation of metabolic processes which turn the food we eat into fuel. In addition, vitamins have an important role in the construction of red blood cells, healthy blood vessels and connective tissue, nerve and muscle function and immune system function.

The perfect pre workout meal: 5 steps to properly fuel before exercise

Systems which play a significant role in exercise performance, recovery and adaptation. The best way to get vitamins through your diet is to eat a variety of rainbow colored fruit and vegetables. Simple!

4. Minerals

There are six major minerals required by the body, including Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorous and Sodium. Minerals are so important for exercise as they are necessary for fluid balance, bones, muscle contraction and turning the food we eat into energy. Minerals are found in meat, fish, dairy, cereal grains, vegetables, fruit and nuts.

5. Water

Water is a vital component of your pre workout meal; water maintains blood volume, lowers body temperature and reduces stress on the heart. Many studies have demonstrated how dehydration decreases performance output.

Guidelines are dependent on the type of exercise intensity, environment and very much individual, aim for a minimum of 250ml to 500ml. Making sure you are hydrated before you exercise will actually make your work out easier!

Here are breakfast, lunch and dinner suggestions to get started:

The ideal breakfast

Freshly juiced: Beetroot, Apple, Carrot and Ginger Juice

2 poached eggs layered on a bed of toast (wholewheat or rye) raw spinach. Sprinkle with pumpkin and sesame seeds.

The ideal lunch

Chicken, Rice and vegetable soup (You can bring this with you in a flask)

You can include all or a selection of peas, sweetcorn, kale, carrots, onions, leeks, green beans.

The ideal dinner

Green Salad with tomatoes cucumber, sprinkle with seeds and dress with olive oil and balsamic.

Pasta, salmon in a tomato sauce and broccoli.

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