We all want to be feeling as energised and as ‘in the zone’ as possible so we can get the most out of our workouts – but there are many supposedly ‘healthy’ foods can still leave us drained of energy and feeling sluggish.
That’s definitely not what we want just before a killer workout.
You know those days when you start your session but seem to struggle to get going? You’re physically present and but for some reason you just feel ‘off’. Put simply, your head is just not ‘in the game’.
It happens to everyone – but picking the right pre workout foods can make a huge difference to your sessions in helping to maintain your energy levels and keep that ‘in the zone’ mindset. Those ‘off’ days can become a thing of the past.
What we want from our pre workout foods:
– Increased energy – To help power killer workouts
– Better stamina – No energy crashes at the gym or after we’ve left
– Less fatigue – Faster recovery after a session
There’s lots of conflicting information online about the best pre workout foods. Fortunately for you, we’ve done some serious digging through various scientific journals and articles to reveal the best pre workout foods. We’ve also uncovered some foods to avoid.
Here’s our breakdown of some of the foods you should consider adding to your pre workout regimen.
OK, so it’s not technically a food, but coffee is a natural stimulant that can help increase endurance and boost energy levels. During your workout, your body uses glycogen as a source of energy but you’ll start to feel sluggish as soon as those stores are emptied out.
The caffeine in coffee helps to slow glycogen depletion by getting your body to use more fat as fuel during your workout. Studies have also shown that caffeine can increase strength and enhance endurance, as well as supplying additional energy to get you through your workout.
Regular coffee drinkers will know that it can also help to improve concentration and focus. Perfect for keeping you ‘in the zone’ in the gym so you can achieve your goals.
Now, before you order an extra-large, double chocolate Frappucino from Starbucks on your way to the gym, we recommend black coffee (with no sugar or milk) before your workout.
Coconuts seem to be all the rage these days – and for good reason.
Coconut water has been shown to play a key role in hydration and is also packed full of nutrients. It contains plenty of electrolytes to help you stay hydrated during your session – and prevent you from feeling fatigued after you’ve left the gym.
It’s also rich in potassium, which can help to balance out sodium levels in your body.
Beetroot, also known as ‘beet’ or ‘red beet’, is a root vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw. It’s become popular all over the world since it was first grown by the Romans in Italy – but not many people are aware of its incredible benefits.
As well as being high in fibre and low in calories, beetroot also contains high amounts of nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide by your body.
What does that mean?
Well, raised nitric oxide production causes your blood vessels to dilate, which can help to enhance endurance, reduce fatigue and improve overall performance in the gym. Not bad.
That’s why beetroot extract is often included in some of the top pre workout supplements.
Citrulline Malate is an amino acid which was first extracted from watermelon in 1914.
Just like beetroot, it can help raise nitric oxide levels and give you more intense muscle pumps in the gym by increasing blood flow.
Once again, this amino acid is found in some of the most popular natural pre workout supplements for the reasons above.
This is a relaxing agent found in green tea leaves. It is known for bringing on a sense of ‘calm focus’ which can help you get the best out of your workouts.
But things get really interesting when L-Theanine is mixed with caffeine.
L-Theanine + Caffeine = ‘Smart’ caffeine
After reading reviews and researching these two ingredients, we found that when mixed together in the same supplement stack, L-Theanine and Caffeine can boost energy but also keep you feeling calm and relaxed.
In other words, you get all of the benefits of caffeine without any side effects such as energy crashes or jitters.
Nuts sometimes get a bad rap for their high fat content – but they can bring a host of benefits when consumed in the right amounts.
Almonds are our favourite pre-workout nut of choice because they’re stuffed full of fibre, B vitamins and calcium – and they’re also a great natural source of protein.
Just one handful contains loads of nutrients, including 65 per cent of your daily recommended requirement of Vitamin E.
So, there’s our pick of some of the best pre workout foods. Now, here are two things to avoid…
There are lots of health supplements and sports drinks that still contain many artificial sweeteners.
Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can cause side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea, indigestion and headaches.
If you opt to take any pre or post workout supplements, always check the label to make sure they do not contain any of these ingredients, such as aspartame or sucrose.
We’re adding this in just in case you’re not aware of one of the biggest tricks in the fitness industry these days – proprietary blends.
What are they?
They’re a mixture of ingredients shown as one overall quantity by supplement manufacturers. This is bad, because it means you don’t know the exact doses of the ingredients inside the blends.
Our advice is to only buy products which clearly state each ingredients and their exact does on the label.
We’re very picky when it comes to selecting our fitness products.
We want to make sure that what we’re taking is everything it’s cracked up to be – but that it’s also natural and healthy.
After researching the best pre workout foods, we thought about buying each individual ingredient separately but quickly realised this wasn’t efficient. So, we began looking for pre workout supplements with the foods above as the main ingredients.
And that led us to 4 Gauge – our favourite pre workout supplement at The Sport Review HQ right now.
The product website is: www.4gauge.com
It’s made by specialist supplements company Roar Ambition and features the best blend of the ingredients above in the right does.
Better yet, it’s completely free from artificial sweeteners and proprietary blends and comes in at just 5 calories per serving.
4 Gauge comes in a ‘Fruit Blast’ flavour and is packed full of the best research-backed ingredients including Caffeine, L-Theanine, Citrulline Malate and Beetroot Extract.
We took it on our way to the gym (about 10 minutes before our workouts) with a handful of almonds and the energy boost was amazing – we never felt tired during our workouts and there were no energy crashes during or after. The full effect lasted for about an hour for us.
The only drawbacks are that it is currently only available on the official website and that it’s premium priced ($45 / £30 a pack) meaning it may not suit everyone’s budget. But they do offer discounts for multi-pack orders and provide free shipping to the US and UK.
If you’re looking for a top pre workout supplement, we definitely recommend giving 4 Gauge a go.
For more information and to buy: www.4gauge.com
So there you have it, our pick of the best pre workout foods for you to consider – and two things you should avoid before your training sessions.
We’ve explained some of the benefits of common ingredients such as caffeine and some of the not-so-familiar names like Citrulline Malate.
Just remember, there’s no substitute for hard work in helping you reach your goals. But getting your pre workout regimen on point can make a massive difference in increasing the intensity of your sessions.
The Sport Review's product reviews are independent advice you can trust. Sometimes, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we don't allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are produced through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge
BIOGRAPHY: Kepa Arrizabalaga