Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Protein is also responsible for healthy nails and hair. The protein from eggs and fish typically gets digested faster than beef or chicken which make both of them ideal pre-workout foods. Protein shakes can also be a great source of pre-workout protein, depending on the type of protein ingested -- casein protein will digest much more slowly than whey. You should consult your physician prior to taking supplements or beginning any dietary program.
Whey protein is perhaps the fastest-absorbing protein on the market, making it the most popular pre-workout protein source in the fitness industry. It is isolated as a byproduct of cheese production and marketed as a dietary supplement. Typically, whey protein is mixed with water or milk and consumed before, during or after a workout. Although a whey protein shake may be an instant and effective source of protein, it lacks the essential vitamins and minerals that other sources of protein naturally contain -- namely foods like eggs, beef and legumes. It is recommended that protein be taken from as many healthy sources as possible to minimize the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
Eggs make a great pre-workout source of protein because they digest quickly and contain a large amount of protein in a fairly small portion. You can have three or four before your workout to keep your protein levels high during training. Eggs contain roughly 5 to 6 g protein each. They also contain all nine essential amino acids -- amino acids are the building blocks of protein -- making them one of the highest quality sources of protein in nature. Eggs are also a great source of sulfur, choline, biotin and vitamin B-12. These are all things your body needs to function properly and stay healthy.
Fish is another great source of protein due to its fast protein absorption and the omega-fatty acids it contains in its oil. Since the body cannot produce omega-fatty acids by itself, it needs to get them from an outside source. Aside from high-quality protein, fish provides omega-3 fatty acids that help fight fatigue and improve circulation -- both benefits that can help you during training. Fish is also less filling, so you can get more pre-workout protein from consumption without adding too many calories to your diet.
One thing to consider with your pre-workout protein is how long it will be between your meal and your workout. If you plan on working out one to two hours after your meal, eating chicken or lean turkey -- which can take one to several hours to digest -- may be a great choice since you have ample time to digest them. If you plan to work out close to meal time, your pre-workout protein should be quick digesting. In this case, a whey protein shake, eggs or some fish would be ideal.
- "Sports Nutrition Manual"; Mark P. Kelly, et al.; National Federation of Professional Trainers; 2006
- "ACSM’s Resources for the Personal Trainer”; American College of Sports Medicine; 2010
- "ACE Personal Trainer Manual"; Cedric X. Bryant; 2003