Your New Pre-Workout Routine
If you've been training in the gym for some time, you’ve started to get an idea of how the process works.
We all know that before you start training you should warm up, do a little stretching, maybe roll out a bit - but there is so much more you can do to improve your performance.
The best way to grow stronger is to workout with high intensity, and the only way to train at high intensity without injuring yourself is to prep for your workout.
This is why it’s important to take your pre-workout nutrition and preparation seriously. One of the most effective ways to ensure you are ready for a workout is to develop your own warm-up, designed specifically for a particular workout.
How to Have A Great Workout
The fundamental aspect of boosting any of your goals, whether it be weight loss, strength or fat loss is to have a great workout. We’re not talking about having one great workout and then calling it quits - the goals you have will take time and we will need to continue having great workouts over and over again.
Having a great workout comes down to a couple important factors:
The most important aspect of any training session - especially in the realm of bodybuilding or strength training is to have adequate levels of glycogen in the muscle.
Glycogen is, after all the fuel for working the muscle. Without adequate stores of glycogen in the muscle, you will lack energy - especially in your big, heavy lifts.
Increasing Glycogen stores will come from carbohydrate-rich foods.
This is the basis behind creatine supplementation - phosphocreatine stores have a direct influence on the rate at which your body can actually resynthesize ADP back into ATP.
Blood Lactate Levels
This one is only really important for those who are elite athletes - especially in the realm of distance runners, although it is important to note that the level of lactic acid in the muscle has a direct influence on performance.
The last and perhaps most important factor to consider before a workout is the level of motivation for an individual in a training session. If you are highly motivated, then you will have a great workout, and even if you feel a little tired or fatigued you can push through and perform at a high level.
This is the basis behind having a great workout. If we can perfect these four categories (or three in most cases) then we can consistently have workouts that push us closer to our goals.
Let’s get into it.
The Importance of Meal Timing
One of the most effective things you can do to prepare for a workout is to simply eat the right foods before you train. As much as 3-4 hours before a workout you can start to eat the right foods in order to increase glycogen stores and phosphocreatine levels.
What about workout timing?
The time that you train has a major influence on overall performance. For example, research has shown that individuals who trained in the evening were more likely to make strength progressions than those that worked out in the morning.
This could be due to the morning exercisers working out in a fasted state, or because the evening exercisers had more time to train because they were not worried about having to go to work after. Either way, the time at which you train will have an effect on overall performance in the gym - and the corresponding results.
With this information in mind, we are going to assume that most people will be training in the evening, after work, or in the afternoon on weekends.
3-4 hours Before A Workout
Sometimes we don't have time to prep and plan everything, but if you’ve done your homework and you are keen on your diet, you will know that carbohydrates prior to a workout can be an effective tool to increase energy.
We suggest going for complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, or bread like rye/sprouted grains as these will not only provide a great source of complex carbohydrates but also fibre and a wide variety of amino acids.
Hydration: you should now start to hydrate your body as much as possible. Drinking up to one litre of water at this time can be an effective way to hydrate muscle cells as a preventative measure for injury.
Try to eat 2-3 servings of grains 3-4 hours prior to your workout.
1-2 Hours Before
Depending on how much carbohydrates you ate 3-4 hours before this is your final chance to get some nutrients before your workout without feeling too heavy. Carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables are the perfect foods for this time as they can be broken down and utilized much quicker than dark grains.
Less Than 1 Hour Before
At this time it would not be the best time to start eating food. We should now look to performance boosting supplements to help provide quick and long-lasting energy.
One of the most common pre-workout amplifiers. Citrulline comes in many forms, but as an amino acid, its primary role is to promote recovery, reduce swelling after a training session and promote a pump during the workout.
Citrulline is a very effective supplement for boosting overall performance because it allows for greater blood flow and the potential nitric oxide that come with it.
When it comes to true performance, nothing stacks up to beta-alanine. In just one workout, this supplement can help you train harder without any sense of stimulation.
Alanine is an amino acid that metabolizes to carnosine - a compound that can buffer the production of lactic acid. This buffering of lactic acid can enable you to train harder, for longer, without feeling the effects of fatigue in the muscle.
The basis behind creatine supplementation is to increase phosphocreatine stores in the body. Although some research will show conflicting evidence on pre vs. post workout creatine supplementation, most will agree that creatine can be an effective supplement at any time simply because of its ability to increase phosphocreatine stores.
This increased level of phosphocreatine stores will help with the resynthesis of ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate) and the corresponding performance that comes with it.
Creatine supplementation has a direct influence on the amount of power you have during a workout.
The most popular supplement for pre-workout nutrition for powerlifters comes in the form of coffee. This is because caffeine has been shown to increase gross motor performance. In other words, caffeine can help to increase your ability to engage all muscles in one specific movement - say squat or deadlift.
In addition to this effect, caffeine is a strong stimulant that seems to “wake “ people up for a training session. Caffeine may also help to limit the amount of muscle soreness that occurs after a workout.
Although these are the four most common and perhaps most effective supplements you can take to improve performance prior to a workout, others may also be effective. This is a simple case of trying what works best for you - after all, we are all different.
Muscle Priming And Warming Up
Okay, now you've done virtually everything to provide your body with the energy necessary for a workout, but muscle priming and warming up properly will ensure your body is “ready” for a workout.
The best form of a warm-up is always low-impact cardio - generally, a bike or elliptical is best.
Your goal is not to spend a certain amount of time on the treadmill, but rather raise your heart rate and temperature so that you can effectively stretch and prime the muscles.
We recommend doing cardio and raising your heart rate to around 70% of your Target Heart Rate before you start to stretch.
Either through rolling or stretching your goal is to prime the muscles for activity.
For a moment, think of your muscles as an elastic band. If that elastic band is cold, stretching it could cause it to break, right? In the same way, we want to stretch the warm muscles so that they are mobile and ready for a workout.
Dynamic Stretching is the best form of stretching to prime your muscles for the movements you will be doing during your training session. If you’re going to squat, you should perform stretches that enable you to go deeper in the squat - always be specific to your workout program.
You're Ready to Train Hard
You’ve now prepared and planned every detail of your pre-workout nutrition, the only thing left to do is get a great workout and refuel.
One last thing. The best warm-up is one that is not rushed. Try your best to be thorough, if you're going to bench, work into shoulder ranges of motion - get the entire system warm, then start off light on the bench with slow movements.
Trust us, you’d be amazed at what a difference pre-workout planning can do to improve your performance in the gym.
Enjoy the gains.