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Pre-Workout Nutrition - Part One

 

What you eat before exercise is not a black and white subject. There is no one recommendation that can be made because everyone is different, each training session is difference and sports have their own specific demands that require different nutritional approaches. It also depends on what on each specific situation. For example, are you preparing for a training session or competition? Is your training high intensity or low intensity? Is it more endurance or strength based? Therefore, some of the points here come with a few caveats and are may not always apply. Part 1 of the pre-workout blog will focus on some supplements that have been shown to improve performance.

Caffeine

This is the one of the most researched pre-workout supplements there is. It has been shown to improve endurance performance1, team-based sports performance, power-based sports performance and during resistance training2. Average increases in performance in studies has been up to 5%. There is some evidence that abstaining from caffeine for a short period before can increase the impact that it has but this is not always found. The dose that has been recommended is 3-6 mg/kg body mass. So, if you are 70kg in weight, somewhere between 210-420mg. One instant coffee contains around 60mg and an espresso contains slightly more.

Beta-alanine

Beta-alanine has gained more and more attention as performance enhancing supplement after is was shown to increase something called carnosine in the muscle. Carnosine acts as a buffer in the muscle and so increasing the amount stored can help increase high-intensity performance. It has found to be most effective in exercise lasting between 60-240 seconds Band has also been proposed to aid lean mass gain. Doses of around 2000-5000mg have been used in studies although large doses have be result in a tingling feeling called paresthesia, a harmless side effect. This can be avoided by using a time-release formulation or taking smaller doses, between 800-1000mg, several times a day3.

Nitrate

Nitrate is a small molecule produced in the body to limited amounts that appears to be help regulate blood flow. Beetroot is one of the most potent sources of dietary nitrate and supplementing with beetroot juice appears to enhance exercise performance by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise and seems to have most benefit in exercises ranging from 1 minutes up to 10 minutes. It might be most beneficial then during anaerobic cardiovascular exercise or muscular endurance events (sports requiring anaerobic intervals such as hockey or rugby, some benefit to rowing and crossfit-type exercises). It has been shown to also bee effective during longer lasting exercise (5km jogs or 10km cycling events) but to a lesser extent. The recommended dose is 6.4-12.8mg/kg. However, 436mg for a 150lb person would mean eating up to half a kilogram (500g) of beetroot. Concentrated supplements are available though which make getting the dose easier4.

These 3 supplements have been shown to potentially improve performance, but they may not necessarily be needed before every training session. Taking caffeine before an evening session, for example, might stop you from getting a good night’s sleep. As with any supplement, seek out individually tailored advice based on your needs and always try new things out in training before a major competition.

 

In part 2 of the pre-workout blog we’ll look at if you should eat before training and what you should eat.

 

References

1)   Ganio, M. S., Klau, J. F., Casa, D. J., Armstrong, L. E., & Maresh, C. M. (2009). Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: a systematic review. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(1), 315-324.

2)   Astorino, T. A., & Roberson, D. W. (2010). Efficacy of acute caffeine ingestion for short-term high-intensity exercise performance: a systematic review. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(1), 257-265.

3)   Blancquaert, L., Everaert, I., & Derave, W. (2015). Beta-alanine supplementation, muscle carnosine and exercise performance. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 18(1), 63-70.

4)   Jones, A. M. (2014). Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Sports Medicine44(1), 35-45.