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Are you apprehensive about pre-workout nutrition? Still thinking whether you should eat before a workout or not? If yes, here is all you need to know about your pre-workout nutrition.

Essence of pre-workout nutrition

Can you drive a car that has no fuel? Of course, not! In the same way, your body needs its fuel to train in the best possible way.

Even if you are fit, skip all the bad stuff, don’t miss on your training and workouts, if you want to improve your performance, you need the right nutrition before your workouts. The primary goal of the pre-workout meal is to prevent muscle catabolism and increase muscle anabolism. This helps to attain a reduction in muscle glycogen depletion, reduction in muscle protein breakdown, and reduction in post workout cortisol levels. This further aids in improving performance during a workout; increasing energy, strength, stamina, and endurance levels; improving the rate of protein synthesis; increasing focus; enhancing nutrient delivery, absorption, and assimilation.

Skipping on the calories may be tempting but not eating before a workout can lower your blood sugar making you feel light-headed and fatigued. You won’t get the same effects and your workout will feel like a waste without a pre-workout meal. On the other hand, if you fuel correctly, you’ll work out harder.

So, if you eat a sizable amount of protein an hour or two prior to working out, your plasma (blood) amino acid levels would be quite high by your workout time. In this state, more protein before training would not make much of a difference in terms of helping you build more muscle because your body is already in an anabolic state.

Common pre-workout foods

A few foods are generally recommended by dieticians to be eaten an hour or so before a workout. These include bananas; porridge and oatmeal; whole grain bread, sweet potato and brown rice; dried fruit and yogurt; chicken, rice and vegetables; fruit smoothies; apple wedges and peanut butter; omelet; homemade protein bars; protein shakes. Fatty food, raw sugar, or candy need to be avoided. Also, avoid overeating as it can cause indigestion, sluggishness, nausea, and vomiting.

Timing of pre-workout nutrition

Ideally, you should consume a full meal 2-3 hours before your workout. The sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and simpler your meal should be. So if you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein. In fact, supplements are the best options in this case.

Stimulant and non-stimulant pre-workout supplements

The supplement industry provides you with many types of workout supplements. This leaves you wondering which supplements are right for you!

Many of them are effective and beneficial in building muscle and achieving lean muscle mass. Broadly, there are two types of pre-workout supplements that are on the market, stimulant and non-stimulant pre-workout supplements. Non-stimulant supplements do not contain caffeine, taurine, inositol, or any ingredient that keeps the body awake. Non-stimulant supplements are beneficial for those who are sensitive to stimulants like caffeine and guarantee a restful sleep in the evening which in turn prepares the body for yet another workout the next day.

Common ingredients in pre-workout supplements

The most common ingredients of the pre-workout supplements include the following:


Creatine is probably the most commonly used supplement that can help to build more muscle (mass, fiber size, strength, and power), and provide you with more energy across your workout by delaying fatigue. [1, 2] It is effective when 2-5 grams of creatine monohydrate is consumed per day.

Supplements: Allmax Creatine 400g, Health Aid Creatine Monohydrate 1000, Health Aid Creatine Monohydrate-PWD, My Protein Creatine Monohydrate 250G, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Micronized Creatine, Inner Armour Hyper Creatine 300 G, Ronnie Coleman Creatine XS 300 G, San Nutrition Performance Creatine 300G, Twinlab Creatine Fuel Powder 300 G

Amino Acids

Amino acids especially branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), arginine, citrulline, beta-alanine, and glutamine have been shown to increase the efficiency of a workout when taken prior to it.

Supplements: RSP Nutrition AminoLean Energy Formula, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Superior Amino 2222, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Amino Energy, BSN Amino X, My Protein Amino XS IN:Fused, Health Aid Free form multi amino acid, Isopure Amino, Universal Amino 1900 Tab, Universal Amino 2700 tab, Universal Animal Juiced Amino

BCAAs refer to the essential amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine. Studies have shown that taking BCAAs before workouts help decrease muscle damage and increase muscle protein synthesis [3, 4]. A dose of 5 grams or more, at least an hour prior to exercise, has been shown to be effective. L-leucine helps to promote muscle growth via protein synthesis.

Supplements: Optimum Nutrition (ON) Instantized BCAA 5000 mg Powder, Optimum Nutrition (ON) BCAA 1000 mg capsules, My Protein I-BCAA 250 G, My Protein BCAA 4:1:1, Health Aid Branched Chain Amino Acid, Health Aid BCAA XS cap, Health Aid BCAA 3:1:2 Cap, San Nutrition BCAA-PRO 5000 335 G, San Nutrition BCAA-PRO 5000 340 G, San Nutrition BCAA-PRO RELOADED 114 G, Twin Lab BCAA Fuel Powder 234 G, Universal BCAA 2000 Cap, Universal BCAA PRO Cap, Universal BCAA STACK 250 G, Allmax Nutrition BCAA 2:1:1 - 400g, Giant Sports GS BCAA 247 GM, Ronnie Coleman BCAA XS/200 CAP, RSP Nutrition BCAA 3:1:2 /200 CAP

L-arginine also has the pump effect, it increases NO production, improving blood flow and delivering nutrients, to the muscle fibers - which assists growth. Similarly, agmatine (a metabolic derivative of L-arginine), assists in NO production and also has cognitive benefits, assisting with mental endurance during a workout.

Supplements: AllMax Arginine HCL 100 g, Health Aid L-Arginine 500 mg tab

L-citrulline also falls under the pump/vasodilator blanket as it converts to L-arginine and then into NO, assisting with vasodilation and increasing blood and oxygen levels to the muscles, again assisting with reducing physical and mental fatigue.

Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth by protecting your body from damage caused by lactic acid build-up. It increases the levels of carnosine in your body, which effectively rectifies your pH levels and prevents the muscle environment from becoming so acidic [5,6,7]. The recommended dose is 2–5 grams daily. However, it must be taken before working out to have its protective effect. Consume at least 0.5 grams prior to your workout [8].

Caution: Newbies to beta-alanine should expect a strange warm tingling sensation after taking it. However, you will get used to it and it is not harmful.

Glutamine is abundant in the body (skeletal muscle) and most protein-rich foods. It is also important for protein synthesis and is often depleted during heavy exercise. Its supplementation increases muscular growth by boosting muscle cell volume and growth hormone release, while also reducing catabolism.

Supplements: Allmax L Glutamine 400g, Health Aid L-Glutamine 500 mg tab, My Protein L-Glutamine 250 gms, Optimum Nutrition (ON) Glutamine Powder - 150 gm, 300 gm, 600 gm, RSP Nutrition Glutamine 500 G, Universal Glutamine 300 G


You have seen people consuming cups of coffee to concentrate on their work throughout the day, haven’t you? The world’s most commonly used stimulant does help you to get through your workout better! It has been shown to improve performance, concentration, intensity, energy, and power; helps reduce feelings of fatigue; and stimulate fat burning by mobilizing fat cells in the blood stream. [1, 9] So, caffeine is not just an energy booster but also increases muscle endurance and strength and reduces post-workout muscle soreness by 50%. Caffeine can be consumed in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, but it can also be found in pre-workout supplements and pills. The way you consume it doesn’t really matter as its effects on performance are usually the same. Caffeine has its peak effects 90 minutes after consumption. However, it has been shown to be effective even when ingested 15–60 minutes prior to exercise [10].

Multi-ingredient supplements

Many supplements containing the above-mentioned ingredients are available in the market that can help you optimize your pre-workout nutritional needs. One of the top selling multi-ingredient pre-workouts supplement is Optimum Nutrition (ON) Gold Standard Pre-Workout (different flavors) that contains beta-alanine, creatine monohydrate, L-citrulline malate, acetyl-L-carnitine.

Important: Not all pre workouts are made alike. What your buddy in the gym takes might not be the right mix for you. Similarly, what you require from a pre workout might change depending on what sort of exercise you are doing.



About The Author Team

We as a Sixpacks team are here to eliminate every FENCE- Mental, Physical, or Emotional- that holds you back from becoming your BEST SELF! We are your ROADMAP TO FITNESS.

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