Less than optimal pre-workout nutrition

Hi there: Last weekend we met for our weekly stairs workout. Everything was as per usual leading up to the workout. Rest was good. Motivation to train was good. I had hydrated well before the workout and had breakfast before training.

As we showed up for the workout we began with a general warm-up consisting of an easy jog around the soccer fields. From there we went into our dynamic warm-up, some skip drills and then a short jog over to the stairs. After a few leg swings and some ankle mobilizations we then proceeded to walk up the first flight of stairs. By the top of the stairs everything was feeling loose, warmed up and ready to go.

But I wasn’t feeling too hot. I wasn’t sure why but thought the feeling would pass.

So we proceeded on with the workout. And I was having difficulty getting my legs going. You know the feeling I’m talking about? Even though you’ve gone through a thorough warm-up your body still feels sluggish.

Well that’s how I felt. Add to that my heart rate was at or above the normal level for this type of workout.

Then I realized what I had done wrong. The day before I had made an omelet. And whenever I cook I like to make extra on purpose. This saves me time then next time I go looking for something to eat.

So when I woke that Saturday morning all I could think about was the left over omelet calling to me from my bed. 3 eggs, a good dose of shredded cheddar, more than enough bacon with some peppers.

After getting ready I was in the kitchen warming up these left-overs and looking forward to my pre-workout meal this omelet would make.

Bad idea.

I should have known better. When we load the body up on fat, protein and or calories we divert blood from the working muscles to the GI tract for the task of digesting these nutrients. And I had just incorporated all 3 of these into my pre-workout meal. In terms of carbs, protein, fats and calories here’s how this meal looked.

Carb = 0 grams
Protein = 38 grams
Fat = 45 grams
Calories = almost 600

I struck out in all three areas of my pre-workout nutrition. I had way too much protein, fat and calories. And zero carbs to fuel my efforts. In fact my fat intake was over 70% of my calories for that meal! (it should have been around 30%) And almost 600 calories won’t sit well in anyone’s stomach right before a workout.

But when you think about it many people will make this same mistake. They will assume an omelet is a healthy breakfast option. They would guess that eggs and cheese are both good food sources and that bacon once in a while can’t be that bad. And they’d be right.

The key considerations here are the proportions of carbs, protein, fats as well as the timing of the meal. Obviously my proportions were unbalanced, I ate too many calories and I didn’t eat this meal at a very good time considering the workout I was about to do.

While we often perform a stair workout to drop a pound of two stick to the conventional way of doing so and don’t follow my lead of tasting your breakfast a second time.

Do you have a favourite pre-workout meal? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you.

okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’



8 Responses to Less than optimal pre-workout nutrition

  1. Jen says:

    Hey Chris, I read in Men’s Health that the perfect breakfast (ratio of fats/carbs/protein) is a bowl of oatmeal and two eggs. I keep hard boiled eggs in the fridge for convenience and I also add a few tablespoons of flax to my oatmeal. What do you think?

    • Chris says:

      Jen: Thanks for your question. Here’s the nutritional breakdown for Old Fashioned Quaker-Oats. I’m not suggesting you got out and buy this particular product but just want us to be on the same page. If you’re using a different product check the label to see how it compares.

      1/2 cup uncooked
      Protein: 5 grams
      Carbs: 27 grams
      Fat: 3 grams
      150 calories

      1 large hard boiled egg
      Protein: 6 grams
      Carbs: < 1 gram
      Fat: 5 grams
      Calories: 78 calories

      1 tablespoon
      1 gram protein
      2 grams carbs
      3 grams fat
      37 calories

      Now to answer your question, the Men's Health meal has a ratio of 23% protein, 39% carbs and 39% fat. Is this the perfect breakfast ratio? It depends on who it's for and what their goal is. And we'll assume they'll eat this meal in the am. For an athlete once carbs drop below 43% power production drops off so it wouldn't be ideal for them. For a weight loss goal it could work well. When you add in a tablespoon of flaxseed the ratios change to 21% protein, 41% carb and 48% fat. So I might go with one egg if you add a tablespoon of flaxseed so the fats don't get too out of whack.

      Thanks for the question.

      okanaganpeakperformance.com 'always moving forward'

  2. Gretchen says:

    Hi Chris, After last weekend’s stair workout I think we all considered what we were eating. My pre-work out food was too high in protein and sugar. Alex gave me an idea and here it is:
    30g shredded wheat
    116g plain yogurt
    If I have my math right it works out to:
    163 calories (8g sugar in the yogurt)
    1% fat
    74% carbs
    25% protein
    What do you think about this idea?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Gretchen: Thanks for your question. I always advocate more carbs in the morning and less as the day goes on. And this is in terms of absolute (grams) and relative (percent) amounts of carbs in a meal. From your numbers of 74% of 163 calories this would work out to roughly 120 calories from carbs or 30 grams of carbs for your pre-workout meal. So the absolute grams of carbs is ok but the percentage may a bit high at 74%. And while you don’t want to have too much fat before a workout 1% is on the low side. You could also stand to take in a few more calories. 163 is not very many to fuel an intense workout.


  3. Jessica says:

    Favourite pre-workout meal is 1/2 cup of yogurt and a hard boiled egg. When I get bored of that I like to make a smoothie with almond milk,banana, yogurt and a dash of protein.

    • Chris says:

      Ok Jessica: Let’s see how this stacks up for you.

      1/2 cup of yogurt = 7 g PRO, 9 g CARB, 2 g FAT, 82 calories (this is for plain yogurt, flavoured varieties will have more sugar)
      1 large hard boiled egg = 6 g PRO, 1 g CARB, 5 g FAT, 73 calories

      Total calories 155 (34% protein, 26% carb, 30% fat)
      ***protein is a bit high, carbs and calories are a bit low, look to add a piece of fruit to this meal***

      8 oz almond milk 1 g PRO, 2 g CARB, 3 g FAT, 39 calories
      banana 1 g PRO, 31 g CARB, 0 g fat, 128 calories
      1/2 cup of yogurt = 7 g PRO, 9 g CARB, 2 g FAT, 82 calories (this is for plain yogurt, flavoured varieties will have more sugar)
      protein depends on how much and what type

      calories without dash of protein = 249 calories (14% pro, 67% carb, 18% fat)
      The smoothie looks alright. If you do add protein keep it very minimal.

      okanagpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

  4. Jen says:

    So what are the perfect ratios for a pre-workout breakfast? And does this differ if you aren’t going for a workout until later, or not at all?

    • Chris says:

      Hi Jen: The ratios are dependent upon a few different factors such as: time of day, time of workout and goal of the individual. For example earlier in the day I advocate more carbohydrate. Just before a workout I’d recommend less fat and protein and a carb with a moderate glycemic rating.

      It does depend when you’re going to workout if at all. If you’re not going to workout right away you can probably handle more calories, fat and protein for breakfast. Imagine going for a weekend brunch. You’d feel ok going for a walk after this big meal but probably wouldn’t want to workout right then.

      okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

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