The best athletes are creatures of habit. Superstitious creatures of habit, even.
We also know that the enemy of being our best is being good enough.
So if you’re training, looking to level up, and trying to find any other ways beyond working out to bring things to the next level, try looking into your pre-workout fueling.
Here are 5 (easy!) ways you can improve your pre-workout fueling and overall performance:
- Plan the timing of a pre-workout meal
- Watch your total carbohydrate intake
- Know the right type of fuel to take
- Consider a longer eating window
- Think holistically
We’ll go into more detail on these five strategies later in this article.
But the point is this: Pre-workout fueling doesn’t have to be complicated. And it also shouldn’t be underestimated.
Having full fuel stores is crucial for performance in any event of longer duration and higher intensity.
What’s so surprising (but also so rewarding) for us at Supersapiens is that so many of the athletes we talk to and work with tend to really skimp on their pre-workout fueling. Does half of a piece of toast or a Powerbar in the car sound familiar to anyone?
Here’s the thing: This kind of un-strategic fueling sets you up for failure.Or at least real struggle in this workout. It digs you into a caloric hole that is a real challenge to get out of, especially if you’re training multiple times a day. Underfueling is a common problem in athletes and poses its own set of risks, injury included.
The biggest challenge that underfueling poses? A lack of carbohydrate availability during training, which leads to potentially impaired exercise intensity, increased perceived exertion, and even symptoms of hypoglycemia.
So what can you do to help dial in your pre-workout fueling?
Easy: Just experiment!
For the first time, you have the opportunity to try different strategies, see the effects on glucose directly, and then adjust accordingly. This is of crucial importance because many different things impact your performance on any given day. As a result, without visibility into how your pre-workout fueling impacts your glucose directly, you are relying on the outcomes of and feeling during your workout. And that has a myriad of confounding variables.
Remove the guessing game and make pre-workout fueling easy for yourself.
Here are the 5 ways to improve your pre-workout fueling:
1. Plan the timing of your meal:
Get your timing right, avoid eating too close to your workout which can cause rebound hypoglycemia. Try eating 3-4 hours (or more) before your workout.
2. Pick the right type of fuel:
The actual form factor of your pre-workout fuel may help you have better gastrointestinal comfort during your workout. This is especially true for early morning workouts. Liquids may be easier and quicker to digest than solids. Consider using gels or liquids to get your fuel in.
3. Total carb intake:
Think about how much fuel you choose to use pre-workout. Focus on carbohydrates and volume. Limit bulk and choose high concentration nutrition sources. The closer you are to your workout, the more you should keep your intake lower.
4. Longer fueling window:
Try to think about your pre-workout fueling over a longer timeline. Dinner the night before your workout can help ensure you need to top up less in the morning.
5. Think holistically:
Most athletes don’t consider fueling during a workout, but this can help lessen your need to refuel or top up. If you increase your total intake and make sure you are less depleted after training, you’ll be better off in the long run. For those training many hours a day, refueling hours can be limited, so training hours also represent an opportunity.
Those are the 5 ways to quickly improve your pre-workout fueling plan. We're collecting data and will come back with even more suggestions soon. If you're interested in experimenting with your own data, you can get your own glucose biosensors here.
- Coyle EF. Substrate utilization during exercise in active people. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Apr;61(4 Suppl):968S-979S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/61.4.968S. PMID: 7900696.
- Febbraio MA, Chiu A, Angus DJ, Arkinstall MJ, Hawley JA. Effects of carbohydrate ingestion before and during exercise on glucose kinetics and performance. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Dec;89(6):2220-6. doi: 10.1152/jappl.2000.89.6.2220. PMID: 11090571.
- Hargreaves M, Hawley JA, Jeukendrup A. Pre-exercise carbohydrate and fat ingestion: effects on metabolism and performance. J Sports Sci. 2004 Jan;22(1):31-8. doi: 10.1080/0264041031000140536. PMID: 14971431.
- NYBO, LARS CNS Fatigue and Prolonged Exercise: Effect of Glucose Supplementation, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2003 - Volume 35 - Issue 4 - p 589-594 doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000058433.85789.66