Here is her published article required for her Master License…
Pre-Workout Nutrition – An Essential Component of Fitness
by Cara Scheinberg, LMSN
Proper daily nutrition is an essential component of health and fitness. Contrary to popular
belief, the pre-exercise meal – not breakfast – is the most important meal of the day. The body cannot
properly function without essential nutrition. Food provides the body with energy for necessary growth
and repair, as well as providing the fuel to lift weights or participate in an endurance activity.
During exercise the body’s primary sources of energy are carbohydrates (glucose) and fat (fatty
acids). The amount of carbohydrates and fat the body requires depends on the specific exercise,
duration of exercise and exercise intensity. The body’s carbohydrate reserves are limited in comparison
to protein and fat stores. Due to lower carbohydrate reserves, it is important to elevate the
carbohydrate levels, or glucose, in the body, prior to exercise. The pre-exercise meal is the one that
determines how much effort can be applied to a workout. The primary goals of the pre-exercise meal
are to: promote additional glycogen synthesis and storage, ensure the body has a supply of glucose for
use during exercise, and stave off fatigue during exercise.
Eating the right kind of pre-exercise meal gives a body the ability to maintain both energy, as
well as strength during physical activity. Pre-exercise nutrition should be chosen carefully as it has an
immediate impact on exercise performance. When exercising, the body depends on glycogen and fat
stores for fuel. Ideally the pre- exercise meal should be consumed 30-45 minutes prior to exercise.
However, depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, eating 1-4 hours prior to physical
exertion will still ensure glycogen stores are full, thus yielding optimum performance.
The pre-exercise meal should include carbohydrates that are low in glycemic index, such as oats
or sweet potatoes, because they are typically more satisfying, easier to digest, and enable the body to
maintain stable blood glucose concentrations. Stable glucose concentrations ensure a steady flow of
energy to the body. Ideally, high glycemic or starchy carbohydrates such as bread and bagels should be
avoided in the pre-work out nutrition so that the body does not have to work hard for digestion and the
available energy is utilized for the training session.
Although the majority of calories in the pre-exercise meal should be derived from
carbohydrates, it is also important to include protein in the pre-exercise meal. Protein contains
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), sometimes referred to as the” building blocks of muscle”. Prior to
physical activity competitors should focus on meat, dairy or casein, otherwise known as slow-digesting
protein, in order to maintain amino acids in the blood, increase the rate of protein synthesis and
decrease protein breakdown.
Protein, amino acids and carbohydrates all contribute to energy production. People often
assume that when the body runs out of carbohydrate fuel, it immediately switches to fatty acids for fuel.
Fatty acids may be use for fuel in long duration training. However, the process of converting fatty acids
to fuel is typically too slow for high-intensity training. Amino acids are a more efficient fuel source, for
high-intensity training, that can be rapidly broken down and converted to sugar, in a process known as
gluconeogenesis. If amino acids are not in the blood supply during exercise, the body will “cannibalize”
the lean mass for immediate fuel. The pre-exercise meal should consist of a moderate amount of low-fat
meat or dairy in order to protect the lean mass accumulated in the body.
The amount of carbohydrate and protein to be consumed prior to exercise is dependent upon
individual body weight. Ideally 1-4g of carbohydrates/kg of body weight and 0.2-0.4g of protein/kg of
body weight is best. For example, an individual weighing 68kg or 150lbs would consume a meal of
approximately 330-1130 calories consisting of 68g-256g of carbohydrates along with 14g-27g of protein.
Specific amount of carbohydrates and protein is dependent upon the intensity and duration of the
upcoming exercise activity.
A balanced pre-exercise meal, of carbohydrates and protein, should be consumed within four
hours prior to exercise. A robust and timely pre-exercise meal can offer numerous fitness benefits
1) More Energy During Workouts – Filling up your glycogen stores (body’s energy tank) before a
workout can help improve your energy levels significantly during a workout.
2) Protect Hard Earned Muscle – During a hard workout, especially with heavy weights, the body is in a
catabolic environment, which can break down muscle tissue to use it as energy. A strategic pre-workout
meal can prevent muscle breakdown and improve energy repair and recovery.
3) Increased Muscle Growth – Eating protein during your workout meal can help slowly release amino
acids into your blood stream promoting protein synthesis. To build muscle, the muscle first be broken
down and enough calories of the proper calories must be consumed to attain growth.
Proper nutrition and particularly pre-exercise nutrition prepares the body with the nutrients it needs to
fuel the body prior to exercise. Consuming sufficient sources of carbohydrates and proteins will provide
the body ready energy source while simultaneously allowing one’s muscle cells to repair and rebuild
bigger and stronger in the process.