Pre and Intra Workout Nutrition

Pre and intra Workout Nutrition

Although post workout nutrition is a prime concern for fitness advocates, one must avoid neglecting pre and intra workout nutrition for body composition. When properly consumed, pre and intra workout nutrients enhance the body’s ability to recover from strenuous exercise. Thus, proper pre, intra, and post workout nutrition facilitates greater gains synergistically than post workout nutrition alone.


A series of separate processes occur DURING resistance training that compromise the integrity of muscle mass. Firstly, a small amount of muscle protein is broken down, transported through the bloodstream to working muscles, and used to generate energy for movement (Gleeson & Jeukendrup, 2010). Additionally, resistance training creates microscopic tears in working muscle fibers that require repairing. Lastly, a sequence of metabolic/ hormonal reactions occur that blunts recovery signaling. Collectively, these processes crop a less than optimal physiological environment for muscle repair and growth. As a result, resistance training creates a negative protein balance (Brown, 2007). This means that exercise itself fosters more muscle protein breakdown (degradation) than growth (synthesis). Thus, to maximize recovery from exercise, one must first minimize the amount of muscle protein degradation (breakdown, or catabolism) during exercise to spare lean mass and elicit a better muscle protein balance. Appropriate pre and intra-work out nutrition reduces a negative protein balance and increases muscle protein synthesis (MPS). The amount of ingested nutrient varies from person to person and from goal to goal. Use the following practical application tips as a guide to enhance your ability to optimize body composition. Let the gains begin!

Practical Application

Carbohydrates- Research study results paint a general picture of the effectiveness of carbohydrate consumption for improving body composition. Consuming carbohydrates before and during exercise reduces cortisol-related protein catabolism and increases muscle protein synthesis levels similar to post exercise carbohydrate consumption (Gleeson & Jeukendrup, 2010). The human body actively uses carbohydrates as a fuel substrate during exercise. Unused fuel substrates are stored as potential energy (fat) for later use if not needed during or around its consumption period. Theoretically, by timing carbohydrate consumption around exercise, one can reduce muscle protein breakdown, increase MPS, and minimize fat storage. Carbohydrate consumption timing is dependent upon a trainee’s specific aesthetics goal and training volume.

1. Because carbohydrate consumption reduces lipolysis and decreases fat oxidation, it is generally not advised to ingest carbohydrates before conditioning while leaning out. Higher-fat, lower carbohydrate pre exercise meals increase fat oxidation and support fat loss.
2. Pre exercise carbohydrate consumption blocks muscle protein degradation pathways. By ingesting carbohydrates before resistance training, one can inhibit catabolism and stimulate MPS. 
3. Caloric intake restriction is essential to fat loss. A reduction in carbohydrate intake often accompanies caloric restriction. During caloric restriction, nutrient timing is essential (Brown & Chandler, 2013). Consume a majority of your daily non-fibrous carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise to minimize fat storage. Similarly, ingest a majority of your more complex, fibrous carbohydrates at all other times throughout the day. 
Ex: Yams and brown rice are great pre and post workout, while fibrous vegetables are great at all other times throughout the day. 
4. Avoid fiber pre, intra, and post exercise. Pre exercise fiber consumption can cause gastrointestinal distress and compromise training efforts, while post work fiber consumption slows digestion and hinders MPS levels (Gleeson & Jeukendrup, 2010).
5. Higher training volumes typically necessitate greater pre and post carbohydrate intakes, while lower training volumes do not (Baechle & Earle, 2008). The same is true for an athlete’s size. Bigger athlete’s need more carbohydrates, while smaller athletes require less. Plan your intake accordingly. Refer to my previous blog, Carbohydrates and Aesthetics, for more information regarding carbohydrate intake procedures. 
Ex: A 200lbs male may consume 70g carbohydrate pre workout, while a 120lbs female may only consume 30g carbohydrate pre workout. Additionally, each trainee may consume more or less depending on his or her total daily training volume. 
6. During long duration conditioning efforts lasting greater than 90 minutes, the human body can “hit the wall” when depleted. During such a phenomenon, the body shuts down to preserve what is left of exhausted glycogen stores in an effort to maintain nervous system functioning (Gleeson & Jeukendrup, 2010). For long duration conditioning efforts lasting greater than 90 minutes, consume 70-90g carbohydrates within the first hour of training. 
Note: Excessive long duration conditioning is not optimal for aesthetic fine tuning. Stick to short duration, high intensity interval training or higher intensity steady state conditioning to maximize body composition progress. 

Protein- Consumed protein provides building blocks through which new muscle mass is formed. Net protein balance = muscle protein synthesis – protein degradation (Brown, 2007). Over time, a positive net protein balance results in an increase in lean mass, while a negative net protein balance marks a decrease in lean muscle mass. Through resistance training and adequate nutrient availability, one prompts more MPS than degradation and generates a chronic positive net protein balance. Together, and combined with other anabolic factors like sleep, these growth constituents foster an environment suitable for optimal body composition.

1. Consuming amino acids either directly before or during conditioning minimizes stored protein’s role as an energy fuel substrate and reduces degradation (Poliquin, 2011). In this case, circulating free amino acids (and not stored protein) provide the body’s working muscles with a mean’s to create energy. Hold on to your muscle mass, supplement with protein pre or intra workout (conditioning or resistance training) to prevent undesirable muscle wasting.
2. Current research suggests that pre resistance training protein consumption increases MPS levels similar to post workout consumption. Minimize degradation and maximize MPS by supplementing with protein pre workout. 
3. Caloric intake restriction is essential for fat loss (Brown & Chandler, 2013). A caloric deficit (consuming less calories in one day than the body utilizes) creates the optimal environment for undesirable muscle protein degradation. During catabolism, the body requires more ingested protein to reduce muscle wasting. Consume a higher percentage of your daily total caloric intake from protein while in a caloric deficit. Further, the bigger the deficit, the greater the need for more ingested protein. 
Ex: you may consume 45% of your calories from protein daily while in a 1,000 calorie deficit, as opposed to consuming only 40% of your calories from protein daily while in a 500 calorie deficit. The bigger the deficit, the larger the percentage.
4. Ingest 10-15g EAAs pre-workout to reduce protein breakdown and heighten MPS.

Supplement Recommendations

Caffeine- Caffeine is readily absorbed after ingestion. Blood levels rise and peak after approximately 60 minutes. Caffeine is reported to acutely enhance endurance performance, increase cognitive functioning and alertness, decrease exercise induced pain perception, and increase neural drive (Gleeson & Jeukendrup, 2010). Consume 3-6 mg/kg body weight to optimize caffeine’s ergogenic effects. 
Note: More caffeine is not necessarily better. Studies show no additional performance benefits above 6mg/kg body weight dosages. Those with heart conditions should avoid caffeine supplementation.

1. Supplement with caffeine before conditioning to increase fat loss. Caffeine reportedly increases lipolysis and fatty acid utilization (Campbell & Spano, 2011). 
2. Supplement with caffeine before both resistance training and caffeine to decrease pain perception and increase training efforts. 
3. Increase caffeine intake incrementally over time to minimize gastrointestinal distress, headaches, restlessness, and other potential negative side effects. Certain athletes are more sensitive to caffeine than others.

Beta Alanine- Hydrogen is a byproduct of high intensity exercise and causes muscular fatigue (the burn). Acidosis onset fatigue often limits exercise performance. Beta Alanine supplementation increases intra-cellular hydrogen buffering substrates (carnosine) during high intensity exercise, decreases muscular acidosis, and enhances exercise performance.

1. Supplement with 3.2-5g beta alanine before resistance training and high intensity conditioning to suppress acidosis, decrease fatigue, and enhance performance. 
2. Supplement with up to eight daily doses of 0.4-0.8g beta alanine to enhance performance without paraesthesia (mild flushing and tingling sensations). 

Branched-Chain Amino Acids- The branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) make up more than twenty percent of human skeletal muscle. During periods of metabolic stress, BCAA’s engage in energy metabolism as fuel substrates. As a result of their dynamic role in both energy metabolism and protein structure, BCAA supplementation reportedly decreases protein degradation intra workout.

1. Take 0.2-0.5g / kg lean body mass of BCAA’s during your workout to minimize muscle protein breakdown, to maximize growth, and to enhance recovery.


Baechle, T. R., Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of strength and conditioning (3rd ED). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 
Brown, L. E. (2007). Strength training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 
Brown, L., Chandler, T. (2013). Conditioning for strength and human performance (2nd ED). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 
Campbell, B.I., Spano, M.A. (2011). NSCA’s guide to sport and exercise nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 
Gleeson, M., Jeukendrup, A. (2010). Sports nutrition: An introduction to energy production and performance (2nd ED) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 
Poliquin, C. (2011). Ask Coach Poliquin: The best Q&A columns from over two decades. New York, NY: Poliquin Performance Center, LLC.