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.
Hopefully this article has helped, but always remember to never get stuck in research land - information is great, but what's infinitely more important and the only thing that actually matters to get results and change your life is to be hitting the gym week in week out, with a properly structured, well-balanced and optmized training and nutrition plan for your specific goals (which if you're reading this is likely building muscle mass as a hardgainer/skinny guy).
To do that there's essentially 3 paths you can take, each with their pros and cons:
Path A: Design Your Own Mass Gain Program (cheapest)
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. If you don't want to spend any money at all, this is how you do it, but be sure to thoroughly research all aspects of your DIY muscle gain program as an unbalanced/bro-science/straight-up-bad program can mean little to no gains at best, and bad posture, injuries and a whole lot of having to backtrack later at worst.
Path B: Follow A Proven Mass Gain 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 indeed some excellent pre-made online programs out there that have stood the test of time in getting guys great results. It can give you a great head-on your transformation journey, and will make things simpler for you as it's simply a matter of executing a specific eating and workout program and not having to worry about getting all the little important details of your program on-point.
Sean Nal's hardgainer transformation program (you can see my full review and before/after pics using the program here) is the complete all-in-one online program I'd recommend to most people and especially beginners, and is the one I personally got the most out of when I first started.
Ignore any slick marketing, this guy's the real deal and easily one of the smartest hardgainers-turned-fitness-models I've come across online. Vince Delmonte's Mass Gain program comes in at a close second, who's another smart guy with the real-world results to back it up, who has another effective and proven step by step online program that's helped thousands of guys transform over a few months (rather than years).
Path C: Find a (Good) In-Person Trainer ($$$)
The most expensive option to achieve your dream physique, but if you have the money to spend (1 on 1 coaching can quickly add up in costs) then ensure you pick a trainer who understands the science behind muscle gain, fat burning, supplementation, nutrition, etc, and most importantly choose one who practices what they preach and has similar results to what you want. If you're a hardgainer, ideally you'll want a trainer who has been in your shoes before and started out as a skinny hardgainer themselves and managed to build muscle successfully, otherwise they may not understand the best course of action for you and give you unhelpful generic advice.
Whichever path you choose - stick with it for long enough, don't give up, and your success in transforming your body, strength, health, posture, and confidence will simply be a matter of when, not if. I'd say good luck, but you understand that last sentence I said you won't need it ;)
Mad-Scientist of Hardgainer-to-Hero Transformations for 12+ Years
Last and Definitely Least: Certified Fitness Instructor (real-world experience > school)