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5 Pre-Workout Power Foods

5 Pre-Workout Power Foods
Before your next hard training session, grab one of these functional foods to boost your performance in the gym and enhance your physique.

One thing I get asked a lot is, “What should I eat before training?” Good question, since what you put into your body at this critical time can make or break your intensity and performance in the gym.

In the hour or so leading up to a workout, I highly recommend taking my blended protein powder Pro JYM as well as Pre JYM. But it’s in your best interest to also take in some form of whole food, particularly one containing carbohydrates that will help fuel your workout and boost your performance in a very direct way. Here are five foods that do just that:

PRE-WORKOUT POWER FOOD #1: APPLES

This might just be my favorite pre-workout whole food of all time. In fact, most of the diet plans I offer on JimStoppani.com list an apple alongside Pre JYM in the meal that falls within an hour before training. And there are multiple reasons for this.

First, apples are a very low-glycemic carbohydrate source, so they provide continuous energy during exercise. More than that, the skin of the apple is rich in polyphenols, particularly quercetin, phloridzon and ursolic acid. Research shows that such polyphenols can boost both muscle strength and size and possibly even enhance fat loss, too. Plus, ursolic acid has been shown to increase insulin-like growth factor 1 (IFG-1) and lower estrogen levels. All of these reasons make the age-old “apple a day” recommendation highly credible.

Pre-Workout Prescription: Eat a medium or large apple within an hour before training – just make sure you eat the skin of the apple. If you’re on a low-carb diet and don’t want all the sugar, consider peeling the apple and eating only the skin, since that’s where a majority of the polyphenols reside. As for what type of apple to eat, I recommend either “Red Delicious” or “Fuji” apples, as those two varieties have been found to have the highest polyphenol content compared to other types.

PRE-WORKOUT POWER FOOD #2: BEETS

Beets are a good source of betaine, also known as trimethylglycine. This nutrient not only enhances liver and joint repair but has also been shown in clinical research to increase muscle strength and power. This is why betaine is included in both Pre JYM and Post JYM.

Beets have been found to increase the diameter of blood vessels by boosting nitric oxide (NO) levels because they provide a rich source of nitrates, the nitrogen-containing compounds that contribute to the production of NO.

Here’s a brief explanation as to how that process works: The nitrates in beets are converted by bacteria living on the tongue into the chemical nitrite. After nitrite is digested, it becomes NO. This molecule relaxes the muscles in blood vessels and widens them, which allows more blood to flow through. This greater flow means that muscles get more blood along with more nutrients like amino acids and glucose as well as oxygen, which can enhance energy and aid recovery.

Pre-Workout Prescription: In the absence of Pre JYM (which contains betaine), try adding some beetroot juice to your pre-workout protein shake. Each cup provides about 100 calories, 24 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein and no fat.

PRE-WORKOUT POWER FOOD #3: DARK CHOCOLATE

Dark chocolate is a true super food. To be specific, I’m talking about dark chocolate that’s around 70% cocoa or more. Its health benefits are well documented – reduced risk of both cancer and heart disease among them – but dark chocolate is also a performance-enhancer that warrants inclusion in your pre-workout meal.

First off, it’s been shown in the past to boost nitric oxide (NO) levels; we’ve known this for a while. A recent study from Aberystwyth University (Wales), however, found another reason to add dark chocolate to your pre-workout shake: better muscle recovery and growth.

The researchers had men consume either 100 grams (about 3.5 oz.) of 70% cocoa dark chocolate or a control bar before pedaling on a stationary cycle for 2.5 hours at a moderate pace. They measured the subjects’ blood glucose and insulin levels, as well as markers of oxidative stress. They reported in an issue of the European Journal of Nutrition that when the subjects consumed the dark chocolate before the workout they were able to better maintain their blood glucose levels, had higher insulin levels and experienced less oxidative stress. These are significant findings, as the ability to better maintain blood glucose levels means you’ll have more energy to keep your training intensity up.

Pre-Workout Prescription: The aforementioned results suggest adding about 3 ounces of dark chocolate or 1/4 cup of cocoa powder that’s at least 70% cocoa (or cacao) to your pre-workout meal or shake. When to have your dark chocolate around workouts is simple: Whenever you take your other pre-workout supplements like Pre JYM and Pro JYM.

For taste reasons, you probably don’t want to throw chocolate or cocoa powder in with your Pre JYM, which is fruit/citrus flavored. But dark chocolate/cocoa tastes great with any flavor of Pro JYM. Of course, if your dark chocolate source is 3 ounces in bar form, it’s probably easiest to just eat it separately from your shake instead of trying to crumble it up and add it to your shake.

PRE-WORKOUT POWER FOOD #4: ORANGES

Believe it or not, oranges can help boost muscle growth, strength and muscle endurance, especially when eaten before workouts. This all comes down to its ability to boost nitric oxide (NO) levels. It was first believed that oranges boost NO levels due primarily to vitamin C, which prevents the breakdown of NO. But more recent research has shown that another component in oranges, hesperidin, can lead directly to increased NO levels.

Pre-Workout Prescription: Include a whole orange in your last whole-food meal before your workout.

PRE-WORKOUT POWER FOOD #5: WHEAT GERM

Wheat germ is the inner-most part of the wheat kernel that stores most of the vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. It's rich in zinc, iron, selenium, potassium and B vitamins. The germ is also high in protein, with a good amount of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), arginine and glutamine. Plus, it's rich in fiber and is a great source of slow-digesting carbohydrates.

All of these reasons make wheat germ a perfect food to eat before workouts. Another reason I recommend it at this time is because wheat germ also provides a good source of the strength-booster octacosanol, the beneficial alcohol found in spinach.

Pre-Workout Prescription: Wheat germ, like oranges, is another great choice to include in your last whole food meal before a hard workout.

 

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