Pre-Workout Weight Lifting Nutrition

There's a lot of hype surrounding post-workout nutrition, but pre-workout nutrition is frequently glanced over. Although eating the right things after working out is indeed important to your muscle building and weight loss routines, eating the right foods before working out is just as important and can help you achieve new heights.

What to Eat

The first thing to understand about pre-workout nutrition is that there is not a large difference between a pre-workout meal and a regular meal. You should be aiming for a good balance of high quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and fats. The only real difference is that the last meal you eat before heading to the gym should be a little heavier on the carbs than usual because your body will need glycogen, which it can attain through the carbs you eat, to help power you through your workout . Fruit is always a good option.

The Importance of Protein

Yes, I did just say that your pre-workout meal should be heavier in carbs than protein, but you should still pay attention to the kind of protein you're consuming. As always, lean animal based protein is a good option. If you're going to opt for a protein supplement, make sure you're utilizing it in the best way possible.

A lot of people will chug a whey protein supplement right before working out because they think that this fast acting protein will help to fuel their muscles during the workout. However, when taken alone, a lot of these whey protein supplements can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, risking a crash while you're still lifting.

A casein protein supplement, because this protein is digested slowly, may be a better option if you take it with food about an hour before you exercise because it will provide your body with a steady supply of protein for several hours. Note though that a supplement is not essential – you can always get slower acting protein from food, especially dairy.


I'm not going to provide you with a hard and fast rule as to when you should be eating your pre-workout meal because it's probably a personal preference and something you should experiment with. However, I can provide you with some suggestions that I hope you'll find useful.

If you prefer to lift weights at night, your pre-workout meal may be nothing more than a moderately carb heavy dinner. Wait for about 1-3 hours, then eat an apple or a different serving of fruit about 15 minutes before you plan to start working out. Studies have shown that eating a piece of fruit close to your weight lifting routine may help to fuel your body through your workout.

If you generally exercise in the morning, eat a good breakfast as soon as you wake up. Make sure to eat some fruit and high quality protein. Then get dressed and ready for the gym so you have as long as possible for your food to settle and fuel your muscles.

If you like to lift during the day, your pre-workout meal may be lunch or a mid-afternoon snack. Aim to eat 1-3 hours before lifting, and then eat a piece of fruit about 15 minutes before pumping iron.