Here we take a look at the importance of the pre workout meal in your efforts to gain weight and build muscle.
I'll explain exactly what you should be eating, what you shouldn't be eating, and when to actually eat it.
Before hitting the gym you need to provide your body with the right nutrients to maximize energy, strength, mental focus, and to prevent any potential muscle loss.
First things first, you need to be properly hydrated. Even though you should be drinking water steadily throughout the day, make sure that you drink some in the few hours leading up to your workout. If your workout is early in the morning, soon after waking up, just drink some water just after rising.
Now, with your pre workout meal, you should eat it at least 45 minutes before starting your workout so your food has time to settle.
The first component of the meal is protein. Eating enough protein will keep your body in an anabolic state during your workout to reduce muscle breakdown. I recommend consuming 30-40 grams of quality protein in your pre workout meal. If you can, try to get your protein from whey protein and casein. You can achieve this easily by mixing 25-30 grams of whey protein in 300-400ml of skim milk.
Whey protein makes for a great pre-workout choice because it is naturally high in BCAA's, which help to prevent muscle catabolism during your workout. Mixing your whey with milk is a good idea because this will slow down the release of the protein and provide your body with a steady stream of amino acids throughout your workout.
The reason whey protein is a great choice for pre-workout is because it's naturally high in Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's). BCAA's will help to prevent muscle breakdown during your workout. Also, mixing the whey protein with skim milk is a sound idea because this will slow down the release of the protein to give a steady stream of energy to your body throughout the workout.
The other part of effective pre workout nutrition is eating the right types of carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbohydrates are what you need as they provide a steady stream of energy to the body.
High glycemic carbohydrates are what you need to avoid before an intense workout. They are rapidly released in your bloodstream and your body will release a surge of insulin to try and level out your bloody sugar levels. This results in a quick rise of energy, then followed by a quick fall. This will leave you tired and weak, which is the last thing you want to happen during an intense workout.
So avoid high glycemic carbs and make sure to eat low glycemic carbs for your pre workout meal. Some good choices are apples, oatmeal, low fat yoghurt, low fat milk and wheat bread. These low glycemic carbohydrates will give you a solid stream of energy.
Summing it Up
Your pre-workout meal shouldn't be too large or take too close to your workout that you feel sick during your session. On the other hand, you shouldn't ever skip this meal as working out on an empty stomach is bad news for your strength and energy, and it could even break down your muscle mass.
So to sum it all up, an effective pre-training meal could look like this:
Don't Forget Your Creatine
Also, if you are supplementing with creatine, which I recommend to many guy's to maximize your strength in the gym and therefore your overall gains, you'll want to take it a little after your pre-workout meal (when you're less full) and roughly 15-30 minutes before hitting your first training set.
Forget whatever you've been doing until now, getting little to no strength and muscle gains, and start anew on the right foot with a logically-structured, science-based, results-focused mass gain program:
Option A: Design Your Own Effective Program ($)
Learn all the crucial basics, principles and over-arching strategies you need to know about planning the best well-balanced, science-based, all-natural mass building program for your specific goal and workout/diet preferences with our pillar 7-step comprehensive guide for beginner lifters and future heros.
Option B: Follow An Existing Pre-Made Program ($$)
To save time having to research and plan the best muscle building program for your specific goals as a hardgainer/skinny-guy/skinny-fat-dad-bod/whatever, there are some excellent step-by-step programs out there for hardgainers that's been proven to create transformations in other guys. This is how I got my start as well, and if I hadn't initially found a good program online I know for a fact that I would have never got the dramatic 1st and 2nd year mass gain results that I got.
Option C: Find a Good In-Person Trainer ($$$)
I personally don't do 1-on-1 training with clients for various reasons (mainly 'cause I run a business which takes up all of my time, and plus I travel a lot which isn't ideal for training people), but if you have the money to spend on this (PTs can quickly add up in costs) and you care about getting results then ensure they understand the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly pick one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want (and if you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who was once a hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you or worst-case they'll falsely tell you that you can't build the physique of your dreams; don't listen).
Whichever path you take, if you're a hardgainer/skinny noob who's a little sceptical that you can actually build the strong and muscular physique that you know would change your life - remember this: no matter what anyone tells you, your destiny is 100% in your own hands despite where you may be starting from. Don't fall victim to the illusion that being a hardgainer or [insert excuse] will hold you back, as smart strategies and persistence will always win in the end.
To your success,
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12 Years & Counting
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor