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Fit 4 Life | Peak performance pre-workout meals

Published:Wednesday | October 18, 2017 | 8:18 PMMarvin Gordon
1/2 cup of sweet potato gives you 21 grams of carbohydrates
1/2 chicken breast provides 26 grams of protein
One oz avocado has 4 grams of fats

THE FOOD we eat – or don’t eat – before a workout weighs heavily on the performance during, and results of that workout. Ever tried training on an empty stomach? The usual outcome is sluggishness and poor, or at least, less-than-optimal, performance.

Having the right balance of nutrients before a workout will boost performance and reduce muscle damage, as each of the macronutrients has a specific role to play in exercise.

The type of exercise also influences the balance of nutrients needed, further complicating the food choices for pre-workout meals.


Carbohydrates function as fuel for your body and are stored in muscles and the liver as glycogen. Our capacity to store glycogen is limited and when these stores run low, performance – intensity and strength – will suffer. 

Consuming carbs before training increases glycogen stores and utilisation while boosting carb oxidation during exercise.

For short, intense workouts, muscles depend mainly on glycogen for fuel, while for longer endurance workouts, the level of dependence on carbs varies, depending on fitness levels, intensity, type of exercise, and even genetic factors, among others. 


Don’t forget portion control when consuming pre-workout carbs. Consuming too much or in too short a time before training will defeat the purpose of the pre-workout carbs, as your body would be unable to metabolise it in time for your workout. Not only will this inhibit performance and, possibly, give you stomach cramps, you would also be risking putting on more body fat.


Studies have shown that consumption of protein before a workout boosts performance as well as protein synthesis.

Pre-workout protein:

  • Improves muscle recovery
  • Boosts performance 
  • Improves muscle growth
  • Increases strength and lean body mass



Fat tends to be the source of fuel for long, moderate-to-low-intensity exercises. Limit intake to a small amount of healthy fats. Consuming too much fat can slow down digestion of other nutrients, thereby defeating the purpose of pre-workout nutrition. 


Proper hydration is crucial for optimal performance. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 16–20 fluid ounces of water at least four hours before exercise and 8–12 ounces of water 10–15 minutes before exercise. Consume adequate water and sodium before exercise to maintain fluid balance.

Let your goals guide your meals



To burn the most fat, working out before eating in the morning gives fastest results. Termed ‘fasted cardio’, studies have shown that this method burns up to 20 per cent more fat.

However, if you choose this pre-workout method, be prepared to deal with dizziness, nausea and weakness, as well as a significant reduction in performance.


For maximum performance, focus on fuelling the activity you intend to perform. For example, if you are preparing for the 10k run, don’t skimp on calories.

The goal is to have all the fuel necessary for the long haul. The downside to this is that you might end up consuming more calories than you need.


  • Reduce your intake of fatty meats, and go for lean protein and seafood.
  • Replace solid fats like butter or margarine with olive oil and other oils that are good for your waistline and heart.
  • Replace baked goods and cereals made from refined grains with whole grains.
  • Eat more beans, fruits and vegetables.



Try this healthy, tasty, Jamaican pre-workout meal to boost performance and results. Avoid frying or other methods of cooking that would disrupt the nutrient balance of the meal.

  • 1/2 cup sweet potato [21g carbs]
  • 1/2 chicken breast [26g protein]
  • 1 oz avocado [4g fats]
- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email:;