Before your workout, whether you train before work, or in the evening after work, there are certain things you can and should do to gear up for the challenge ahead. Nutrition plays an enormous part, but your supplements are what will put you over the top. Taking the right supps during this crucial window helps get your body in a position to grow from today’s session.
1. Eat Slow-Digesting Carbs Before Workouts
Researchers at Loughborough University discovered that when athletes ate slow-digesting carbs such as whole grains for breakfast and lunch, they had lower blood sugar levels and burned more fat during the day. The athletes also had more endurance and burned more fat during exercise compared to those who ate fast-digesting carbs such as white bread or plain bagels. Be sure that all the meals you eat before your workout, including the one immediately before, include about 40g of slow-digesting carbs such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruit, buckwheat, or whole-wheat bread.
2. Avoid Higher-Fat Meals For Up to Four Hours Before Workouts
A University of Maryland School of Medicine study reported that a high-fat meal blunts the ability of nitric oxide (NO) to dilate blood vessels for up to four hours. That means less blood flow to muscles and less of a muscle pump, which is even more costly if you’ve invested in an NO supplement. In the four hours before your workout, avoid eating large amounts of fats, such as the obvious fast-food fare and packaged foods (even if you’re in a mass-gaining phase).
3. Eat a Green Salad With Your Last Whole-Food Meal Before The Gym
The same University of Maryland researchers also discovered that consuming a small green salad with a high-fat meal prevented the adverse effects on blood vessel dilation, likely by enhancing NO. About two hours before you hit the gym, include a green salad with low-fat dressing with your meal.
4. Eat Buckwheat As Part Of Your Pre-Workout Carb Intake
Buckwheat, found in buckwheat pancakes and soba noodles, is a fruit seed that’s often used as a substitute for grains. It digests slowly, which helps increase endurance and fat-burning. Buckwheat also contains a flavonoid called chiroinositol. A cup of cooked soba noodles before workouts can help get more pre-workout creatine into your muscle cells without blunting fat loss, which can occur from high blood sugar spikes.
5. Take Whey Protein & Creatine Supplements
Take 20g of whey protein and 3-5g of a creatine supplement. Researchers from Victoria University reported that subjects who consumed a protein and creatine supplement immediately before and after workouts over a 10-week period increased muscle mass by 87%, bench press strength by 36%, squat strength by 27%, and deadlift strength by 25%, and decreased bodyfat by 3%, more than a group taking the supplement before breakfast and before bed.
6. Take Caffeine Before Your Workout
Take 200-400mg of caffeine 1-2 hours before your workout. Research shows that caffeine taken pre-workout increases fat-burning and endurance and blunts muscle pain during training, which means you can do more reps. A more recent study, from the University of Nebraska, indicates that subjects who took a caffeine supplement before their workouts immediately increased their one-rep max (1RM) on the bench press by about 5 pounds. Studies show caffeine supplements work better than caffeine from coffee.
7. Take Arginine Before Workouts
One study reported in the journal Nutrition that trained subjects who took arginine supplements for eight weeks increased their 1RMs for the bench press by almost 20 pounds more than those who took a placebo. Take 3-5g of arginine 30-45 minutes before workouts.
8. Add Cocoa Extract to Your Shake
Add 2 teaspoons of cocoa extract to your preworkout protein shake. Scientists at the University of California discovered that a flavonol called epicathechin in cocoa boosts NO levels and blood vessel dilation. If you’ve taken your NO and had a preworkout salad, this will keep NO levels higher longer.
9. Use Forced Reps on Your Last Sets
A Finnish study found that when subjects performed a workout with forced reps (a spotter helped them get through their sticking points to get a few more reps), their testosterone levels were almost 4,000% higher than without using forced reps. For the last set of each exercise after reaching failure, go for 2-3 extra forced reps, but utilize these sparingly to prevent overtraining.
10. Don’t Train to Failure on Every Set
Australian scientists have reported that training with one set to failure increases strength better than taking no sets to failure. However, when subjects did more than one set to failure, strength gains were lowered by almost half compared to the subjects doing just one set to failure.