Best Pre-workout Meals for Muscle Gain

If you want to build endurance and gain muscle, it’s not just what you eat that matters.  When is crucial, too. The benefits of nutrient-timing — eating specific foods at certain times to optimize athletic performance — have long been a big part of any athlete’s nutrition plan.

A balanced pre-workout meal for muscle gain helps minimize muscle damage, promotes protein synthesis, and speeds up muscle recovery. Effective pre-workout meals consist of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats to help the body sustain energy levels through an intense workout or training session. 

Knowing what to eat before a workout to build muscle can help you craft the perfect meal to support your fitness goals.

What To Include in Your Pre-workout Meals To Gain Muscle Mass

Whether you’re a new fitness enthusiast or a seasoned athlete, the food you eat before a workout is a big part of what helps you gain muscle, recover, and repeat.

Here are several examples of what you can include in your meals to reap the full benefits of pre-workout fueling:

High in Carbohydrates Foods Like Brown Rice

A big goal of eating specific foods before a workout is to replenish the body’s glycogen, a type of carbohydrate. 

Carbohydrates are the body’s biggest and most effective energy source and play an essential role in fueling your workouts. For those aiming for a diet that supports muscle gain, carbohydrates are an absolute must.

Next time you eat before working out, opt for complex carbohydrates like brown rice or lentils. These types of foods provide a slow and steady release of energy, helping maintain intensity levels and preventing muscle breakdown throughout your activity.

Oatmeal is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber and a great pre-workout breakfast for muscle gain. Alternatively, you can try white bread with almond butter to combine simple carbohydrates for a quick boost and healthy fats for more energy. Muscle Mac’s pre-portioned, easy-to-make Macaroni & Cheese is another option, providing fuel and sustaining energy throughout your workouts. 

Other examples of foods high in carbohydrates include:

  • Oats
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Whole bread
  • Whole grains
  • Sweet potatoes

Foods High in Protein Like a Protein Shake, Protein Powder, or Egg Whites

Protein is fundamental to muscle growth and recovery. Although it takes longer to digest than carbs, including a dose of protein before a workout can minimize potential muscle damage and support the synthesis of new muscle proteins. This means that your muscles will recover and grow faster. Additionally, fat-digesting proteins, such as whey protein, are especially beneficial as they’re rapidly absorbed and quickly begin to support muscle recovery. 

Cottage cheese, on the other hand, is an excellent source of slow-digesting protein. You can also add fruit to provide natural sugars and antioxidants or nuts to contribute healthy fats. 

You can have a protein bar, a convenient and effective source of protein and carbohydrates. Try choosing a bar with a balanced macronutrient profile and minimal added sugars.

Grilled chicken is another great choice. You can pair it with quinoa and vegetables, infusing complex carbohydrates and essential amino acids into your lean protein meal.

Foods explicitly made to promote muscle growth and recovery, like Muscle Mac’s line of Macaroni & Cheese products, are also excellent options for a pre-workout meal. They provide 20 grams of protein, upwards of 40% of your daily needs.

 Other foods high in protein to include in your meals are:

  • Legumes
  • Egg whites
  • Lean meats
  • Protein shakes
  • Protein powders

Low-fat Foods Like Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Although fat is essential to a healthy meal and correlates with athletic performance, consuming it sparingly and in moderation before a workout is advisable. Fats take longer to digest and delay food leaving the stomach, which can cause discomfort during exercise and might work against your fitness goals. 

Low-fat alternatives like Greek yogurt is a better option and the best pre-workout snack for muscle gain. Low-fat foods, in general, are good to include as they easily combine with other muscle-building foods.

Other low-fat alternatives might be:

  • Cream cheese
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Turkey breast (without skin)
  • Light tuna (packed in water)

Foods With a Low Glycemic Index Like Sweet Potatoes

The glycemic index (GI) refers to how quickly a particular food releases energy in the body. Foods with low GI are good to include before a workout as they help maintain energy levels throughout an exercise session. 

Sweet potatoes are a prime example of a low-GI food that can support muscle growth. They provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, and essential nutrients like potassium, aiding muscle function and recovery.

Other examples of foods with low GI include:

  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli 
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Cauliflower

How Important Is Eating the Right Food Before Intense Workouts?

Extremely. In fact, the importance of a well-rounded muscle gain pre-workout meal for increased athletic performance can’t be overstated, and including a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat is a part of that. 

Eating the proper nutrients before intense physical exertion provides the necessary energy to perform at optimal levels while reducing the risk of muscle damage. 

Amino acids, for example, are the building blocks of proteins. They are crucial for repairing and building muscle tissue, and adding a sufficient amount to your pre-workout meal can help. 

Additionally, eating complex carbohydrates and low-GI foods is crucial. Carbs are instrumental in maintaining energy levels during a workout and are vital for optimal performance. They will help sustain energy throughout your workout, allowing you to push harder and achieve better results. 

The Right Muscle-Building Foods for Your Pre-workout Meal

Everyone knows you can’t exercise your way out of a poor diet. 

On the other hand, creating a synthesis between what you eat and when you exercise can bring tremendous benefits to anyone looking to use food for muscle gain and enhance their athletic output. 

Knowing what to eat before a workout is crucial — that’s where Muscle Mac can help.

Our Mac & Cheese products are made without synthetic dyes or colors, use GMO-free pasta, include vegetarian-friendly protein sources, and are healthier and better tasting than the national brands. 

If you’re looking for a delicious, balanced pre-workout meal to gain muscle and improve your athletic endurance, try Muscle Mac today.