What time of the day do you hit the gym?
What do you eat before you go to the gym?
No matter when you hit the gym or what you eat before you go to the gym. There are several reasons why you should make sure that you include protein in your pre-workout nutrition regimen.
The prevailing school of thought on protein timing around workouts is that the post-workout anabolic window, the time in which you need to refuel and take in protein and shift to an anabolic state (building muscle) from a catabolic state (breaking down muscle), is the critical time to refuel with protein and carbs to ensure that your protein intake is adequate to take full advantage of your hard work in the gym.
But what about before?
If your workout routine includes hitting the gym first thing in the morning, upon waking up in the morning, your stomach is empty. And your body is generally depleted after a night of sleep. For many people, grabbing the pre-workout supplement or a cup of coffee is a must to get going. Also, it’s enough to make it to the gym. Pre-workout supplements and coffee are great for giving you that initial boost to get you going. But ideally having a source of complex carbohydrates will help to power your workout. It can be oatmeal for longer duration energy. Or it can be something as simple as candy or coke for a quicker source of glucose.
If you’re working out from lunch on through the evening, you may consume regular meals hours before your gym time. Hopefully, through ideal meal planning and timing, adequate complex carbohydrate intake has provided you with the necessary glycogen stores without having to seek out anything more than a pre-workout snack if necessary. Low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets are especially ideal for supplementing with protein prior to workouts. Carbohydrates will not be an option for this nutritional approach, no matter the time of day.
So why is consuming protein prior to a workout important?
When the body has exhausted stores of glycogen for powering a workout, it will turn to a different source – your muscles. Through muscle protein catabolism, your hard-earned lean muscle can be the victim of inadequate nutritional strategy. By adding protein prior to your workouts, once glycogen stores have been depleted, protein ingested prior to exercise will be used as a source of fuel rather than your muscle protein.
Looking for a bonus to protect your muscles? Add in a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) drink before or during your workout. Studies have shown that BCAAs can assist in decreasing muscle protein breakdown help synthesize protein for muscle growth. Not only will consuming protein prior to a workout help to prevent the breakdown of muscle protein; the post-workout window to refuel your body after a workout gets larger. Taking in a combination of carbs and protein or protein alone before your workout will buy time before refueling via your next meal or supplement shake is needed after your workout.
What if you don’t have time to grab a chicken breast, eggs, or another source of protein? Or what if you just don’t want that overly-full feeling before you workout? Drinking a whole or half of a ready-to-drink protein shake, mixing up a scoop of protein powder with a smaller amount of water, or simply grabbing a protein bar prior to hitting the gym will provide sufficient protein to give you all the benefits the protein you need without feeling sluggish or impairing your ability to put forth maximum effort in the gym. In summary, the next time before you hit the gym – no matter what time you hit it – make sure you include protein as a part of your pre-workout nutrition strategy.