Health experts argue about nutrition topics endlessly. However, one thing they tend to agree on is the importance of nutrient timing for athletes.
Everyone’s body is made of amino acids, intricately woven proteins that are continually broken down by exercise. To regenerate these tissues takes protein. However, before a workout, your muscles need fuel power. They are not yet ready to be repaired. Roughly one to two hours before a workout, you want to give your body the nutrients it needs to power you through. Basically, your pre-workout meals need to center around carbohydrates. You’re probably thinking, “but I need protein to satiate my hunger levels.” You’re right, sort of. (See Pre-Workout Food: Fuel Up The Right Way.)
It takes time for protein to fully break down. Like every other nutrient, it must be digested in the stomach. But protein must be further broken down in the small intestine before it is transformed into usable amino acids to regenerate muscle tissue. While you’re sweating through a workout, you need a more easily digestible fuel substance. The body functions best on the glycogen process, and glucose is a carb. After you’re done with your last rep, then turn your focus to taking in protein.
Before a workout, remember: whole grain, complex carbs will provide you with the most readily available source of energy. Protein is not a key factor at this time, but I wouldn’t suggest avoiding it totally. Have a banana and a serving of peanut butter. This is a great combo to provide a strong dose of carbohydrates and a moderate level of protein.
With so many sources of complex carbs available, your options are nearly endless. Play around with different foods to see what works best for you! (Check out Pre-Activity Snacks.)