Workout Like the Pros: How Pre-Loading Meals Get You the Best Workouts
Ready Nutrition guys and gals, let it never be said that I under-emphasize weight training and physical conditioning. I believe it to be the centerpiece of keeping yourself in good health both physically and mentally. That being said, you need to give yourself an “edge” in your training. Train intelligently and with purpose, and you will garner significant results. Nutrition is the cornerstone of proper training. That being mentioned, we’re going to cover pre-loads in terms of both supplements and “standard” foods that will help you prior to a workout.
Everyone varies, and everybody is different. In the morning, I can’t stand to eat anything just before I lift. The food never sits well in my stomach. My pre-load comes the night before, in the form of high protein and ample carbohydrates. Let’s discuss this. Your body will digest the food slowly from the night before…especially if you eat very late at night, such as 10 pm or later. I like to finish up my meal about 7 pm if possible.
I stack up the high protein, and medium to high carbohydrates, the latter in the form of potatoes or pasta. I prefer the potatoes: they are more readily-absorbable and digestible for your system. The carbs and proteins provide energy and tissue repair, in that order. They “fortify” you by giving you a load of energy to work with after you arise in the morning. This may not sound important, but it is. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it does not detract from the fact that they’re all important.
Before I hit the hay, I like to throw down a protein shake. I’ve written about the benefit of the shakes, but I’ll recap. When you sleep (especially when you eat an early dinner, in the manner that I do), your body’s metabolism slows down. This is good because the uptake of the aminos and nutrients in the shake will pass into your system at a slow and steady pace. They’ll fortify you as you rest.
In the morning, I throw down about 5 grams of Branched-Chain Amino Acids in powder form in some water: easy on my stomach and I can avoid eating anything until post-workout. As mentioned in other articles, these BCAAs are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine…crucial for tissue repair and convertible into glycogen…later turning into glucose and being used as fuel by the body.
Afternoon workouts are a little different. Many experts believe that the optimal time to work out is 3 pm in the afternoon. Unfortunately, for many who work, you’ll have to fit the time in when you can. The afternoon workout should be characterized by a pre-load of medium to high protein content and high carbs about two hours out. This gives time to digest and pump some of those substances into the bloodstream for use when you throw it down and move steel.
Pre-loads with protein shakes are good for some people, not so good for others. If you feel that you are sick to your stomach or queasy while you’re working out, you may have to do what I do and take BCAAs prior to the lifting, and then a protein shake post-workout. You want to eat a filling meal beforehand prior to the afternoon meal, but not so full that you feel as if you’re bloated. Eating too much puts a strain on your digestive system, and “shunting” will take longer.
Shunting is what takes place in your peripheral circulatory system. You just placed a slab of beef and a bowl of pasta into your guts. Now, what happens? Well, the blood moves from your periphery (arms, legs, appendages, brain) into your thoracic cavity as your stomach begins the daunting challenge of breaking down Aunt Gertrude’s slab of meatloaf and her fat German dumplings you had over at mom’s for lunch. Your body uses 10% of its derived food energy to digest the food. When this happens, your brain becomes desirous for sleep, and your concentration level vanishes…as your eyelids droop, your mouth hangs open, and you become a poster child for Neanderthal man.
Seriously, it presents other problems, because if you exercise with your concentration minimized, you could hurt yourself. Also, the muscles are not firing from the neurosynaptic junctions…where your nerves innervate the muscles…throwing off power, timing, and effectiveness. Two hours out or more before those afternoon workouts is when you should eat your food. Some proteins are more readily-digestible than others, as well as the form they’re in. Ground beef (the love of my dining life) is more easily processed then a steak, that needs to be cut up and chewed and then digested. It is self-explanatory if you see the two side by side.
The ground beef or shredded chicken breast can be inserted into mashed potatoes. Throw this down, and you’ll digest it within an hour. Follow it up with some pineapple, which contains Bromelain, a substance that helps you digest meat. Nifty: only pineapples have it. I don’t believe in “power bars,” or any energy bars: although they can be eaten, they’re not as fast as most would believe, and you need to drink about a gallon of water to break them up so that you can derive the benefits.
Stick with pasta and potatoes as your mainstay for carbs, and don’t neglect the banana or even a few prunes for the potassium. These are some ideas to get you started. The pre-load meal or supplements will give you the extra energy and nutrients you need to get through those workouts. It is a continuous “feed,” whether before or after, but make sure you take into consideration just how much food you need to repair tissue and to promote muscle growth: it’s a lot. Stay in that good fight. JJ out!
Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.
Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.
Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.
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