Free shipping on orders $150+ (U.S. only.)

What is the Best Pre-Workout Meal for Building Muscle Mass?

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviewed by Advisory Board

What is the Best Pre-Workout Meal for Building Muscle Mass?

When it comes to building muscle mass, the food you put into your body is equally (if not more important), than what you do in the gym.

To increase muscle size and density it’s inevitable that you’ll have to pick up heavy weights and move them around with great intensity, but if you aren’t feeding your body high quality calories in the right quantity, you will miss out on valuable gains inside and outside of the gym.

The question is, does it matter when you get your calories throughout the day or not? Is the preworkout meal even important, and if it is, what is the best preworkout meal for muscle building?


How Important is the Pre-Workout Meal?

When starting a muscle building phase, it’s important to look at your nutrition as a 24-hour cycle, broken into a few very specific parts.

Aside from getting in adequate calories each day, the pre-workout and post-workout meals are often considered the most important when it comes to optimizing physical performance in the gym and positively influencing the recovery process [1].

In the pre-workout window, your body needs adequate nutrients and calories to enable you to power through an intense resistance training session. If you don’t fuel your body properly before your workout, your performance will suffer.

When building muscle mass, every single set, rep and exercise you complete in a given workout is crucial. Even if you’re focusing on sets in the 3-5 rep range, the amount of weight you push or pull during each set will determine how much lean muscle mass you will gain [2].

Techniques like negative reps, forced reps, drop sets and training to failure on specific sets can help you build more muscle, but to sustain your energy in that kind of workout requires a lot of fuel.

To push your body to maximum capacity and performance, you must pay as much attention to what you eat before your workout as you do after your workout. Both meals are important, but for some reason the pre-workout meal often gets neglected. That can’t be the case when you are eating to build mass.

So we’ve determined that the preworkout meal is important, but what should it consist of? What does the best preworkout meal for building muscle mass look like?


How to Structure the Best Preworkout Meal

Best Preworkout Meals

Preworkout nutrition doesn’t have to be rocket science, but there are a few rules you should follow if you want to make the most of this precious window.

#1:  Consume 20-30 grams of protein

During the preworkout window, it’s best to choose a protein source that has an adequate amount of fast-digesting protein (approximately 20-30 grams). Options for ideal preworkout protein sources include whey protein, egg whites, chicken, ground turkey or even tuna.

If you are going to eat any form of animal protein before your workout, it’s best to eat your preworkout meal at least 2-3 hours before you hit the gym, otherwise you may find that the digestive process interrupts your workout flow. If you need a quick dose of protein before your workout, it’s best to consume protein that is faster-digesting, like whey protein or egg whites. If you choose to consume a faster digesting protein source you can make your meal or shake, consume it and be ready to hit the iron within 30-60 minutes.

Though experts often claim that carbohydrates is the most essential ingredient for a pre-workout meal, protein is just as important. One study even suggests that there is greater lipolysis and plasma fat availability following high-protein relative to high-carbohydrate meals [3].

#2:  Consume Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate Rich Foods

How many carbohydrates you consume in your preworkout meal will depend on your body-weight, your age and your macronutrient goals for muscle-building. Typically, the standard recommendation for carbohydrate intake in a preworkout meal is around 25-40% of your total daily carb intake.

That can vary slightly, but building a lean physique will require the majority of your carbohydrates to be consumed around your workout in the pre and post window. To keep it simple, you can plan to follow a 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein one hour before your workout. Studies have shown that when athletes consume carbohydrates 1 hour prior to a workout, insulin and blood glucose levels are reported to elevate immediately before exercise [4].

Though not absolutely essential for building muscle, carbohydrates play a useful role in helping to maintain enough energy to push through an intense workout in the gym and then recover from that workout without any issues.

#3:  Avoid Foods High in Fat

Fats are an important part of any muscle-building diet, but they should be used sparingly in the preworkout meal. Fat delays food leaving the stomach (the process is called “gastric emptying”), and can slow down your body’s uptake of nutrients. This is the reason why fats need to be present in small doses in your preworkout meal.

Fats should be present in other meals throughout the day, but you should primarily stick with carbs and protein before and after your workout. When you are preparing for an intense workout, you’ll want something that digests quickly, like a simple carbohydrate and protein.

Most published research studies report no performance benefits linked to consuming a high-fat meal in the pre-workout window when compared to a high carbohydrate or protein meal [5].


Ideas for the Best Preworkout Meal

Ideas for Preworkout Meals

In case you’re hurting for ideas in the meals department, we’ve laid out a few preworkout meal combos below that will leave you feeling energized and satiated, which is exactly how you want to feel going into a grueling workout.

Preworkout Meal #1:  Whey Protein and Oats

If you want a simple meal that will give you the perfect macronutrient combo, then whey protein and oats is perfect. All you need is oatmeal, preferably plain quick oats or rolled oats, and the protein powder of your choice. Check out a few of our protein options here if you need some ideas.

You can make hot oatmeal and add protein powder if you prefer a warm meal, or you can try overnight protein oats, a trend that has grown in popularity over the last few years.

To make overnight protein oats, all you need to do is mix oats with liquid (almond milk, cashew milk or water) and add a protein powder. Simply let the oats sit in the refrigerator overnight and eat them anytime during your preworkout window the next day.

If you want an excellent spin on whey protein and oats, mix up your preworkout meal with our flavorful options--strawberry, french vanilla, chocolate, mocha or salted caramel.

Preworkout Meal #2:  Egg Whites and Toast

Egg Whites and Toast for Preworkout Meal

Egg whites, like whey protein, are a fast-digesting source of protein. Any form of fast-digesting protein is perfect for the preworkout meal, where the goal is to ingest protein and begin a workout soon after without feeling sluggish.

Egg whites are a great protein source preworkout, and nothing goes better with eggs than toast. If you prefer white bread over wheat, this could be a good thing. While wheat bread is definitely acceptable in the preworkout window (as long as you wait at least an hour before your workout), white bread is a perfect example of a fast-digesting carb--a carbohydrate source that can be ingested and used for fuel immediately. For this reason, egg whites and toast are the perfect preworkout combination. If you want to add a tasty side to your egg whites and toast meal, try some lean turkey bacon or center cut bacon.

Preworkout Meal #3:  Chicken and Rice

Although consuming chicken is not ideal if you need to start your workout in 30 minutes, if you have a few hours before your workout, chicken is a nice choice for a preworkout protein source. Of all the animal protein sources you could consume preworkout, chicken is one of the best because it hits a few key points--it’s high in protein, and it’s low in fat.

Rice has long been touted as one of the best options for pre and post-workout carbohydrates, and for good reason. As with the eggs and toast meal, with this option you can choose brown rice or white rice. White rice is faster-digesting than brown rice, so it can be consumed an hour or so before your workout, whereas brown rice should be consumed a few hours before your workout. Rice has a double benefit, because it is relatively high in protein compared to other grain sources and it is also very low in fat.

If you’re getting tired of bland chicken and plain rice, try seasoning your rice and chicken with Himalayan pink salt, lemon pepper, garlic or other calorie-free spices. If you mix up the seasonings often enough, it will never get old.

What Else can be Done to Enhance Your Preworkout Meal?

Preworkout Meal for Muscle Building

In addition to consuming food before your workout to fuel your performance, you shouldn’t neglect your preworkout supplementation.

There are plenty of options to choose from when seeking out a preworkout formula, but instead of just choosing anything off the shelf at your local supplement store, you should select a product that aligns with your physique goals.

We’re not going to beat around the bush--our goal has always been to develop the best “bulking” pre-workout supplement available. We don’t just throw a bunch of ingredients into a tub--we actually spend time selecting ingredients that are all backed by published scientific research.

When you look at our product labels, you’ll know why we chose the name Transparent Labs for our company. We use clinically effective dosages that contain zero colored dyes, zero artificial sweeteners and zero additives.

Our PreSeries Bulk product is perfect for increasing energy and performance in the gym, without all the harmful side effects of other pre-workout formulas. Each serving of PreSeries Bulk contains 19 active ingredients ( including caffeine) that are designed to increase your pump (due to the increase in nitric oxide), reduce fatigue and muscle soreness and improve physical performance.

Combining ingredients in a pre-workout supplement can lead to increased energy, focus and lower levels of fatigue during intense exercise, which are benefits no lifter should ignore [6].

Don’t waste time on another useless pre-workout. Check out our PreSeries Bulk today. If you don’t believe us, check out our product reviews from our happy customers!




Trevor Hiltbrand
Trevor Hiltbrand

Author

Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.



Also in All

Does the Egg Diet Work? Pros, Cons, and How to Start
Does the Egg Diet Work? Pros, Cons, and How to Start

by Trevor Hiltbrand 0 Comments

Every time you turn around, there seems to be another popular diet that claims to either help you build muscle or lose weight. Some actually have some nutritional merit, while many others are all but worthless and perhaps even dangerous.

Continue Reading

All You Need to Know About CBD
All You Need to Know About CBD

by Trevor Hiltbrand 0 Comments

Continue Reading

Is Sucralose Bad for you?
Is Sucralose Bad for you?

by Trevor Hiltbrand 0 Comments

Is sucralose bad for you? Sucralose (also known as Splenda) is a popular artificial sweetener used in many of your favorite foods. But is the no-calorie sugar substitute slowly killing your health? We’re sharing the facts on artificial sweeteners and the harm they could be causing your body.

Continue Reading