Before you hit the road for your regular jog, you might be looking for that quick, easy energy boost from a preworkout snack. While many joggers and runners turn to energy gels, bars and sports drinks, another option you have available to you is protein shakes. Depending on your goals, these could be a useful addition to your prejog arsenal.
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Protein's Purpose Before a Workout
Joggers, runners and athletes in general often focus on carbs before a session, but protein has a role to play, too. Sports dietitian Natalie Digate Muth of the American Council on Exercise notes that a small amount of protein preworkout can help to increase the availability of glucose -- the fuel you need to keep you going -- toward the end of your workout. Not only that, but it can decrease muscle protein breakdown, too.
Shakes vs. Foods
The primary purpose of drinking a shake over a solid protein source, such as a piece of meat or fish or a bowl of yogurt, is digestibility. A protein shake will sit a lot lighter in your stomach and is unlikely to cause as much bloating as eating solid food. Additionally, liquids are more rapidly absorbed than solids and will contribute to hydration levels.
Protein Comes Second
While protein before a workout may be beneficial, carbs are still the most important preworkout macronutrient for joggers. Carbs are the most effective nutrient for performance and are broken down faster than proteins, making them a far better energy source, notes the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Not only that, but carbs have the biggest impact on muscle glycogen and energy levels, and eating too much protein before a workout can slow the digestion of carbs, which could potentially hinder performance.
If you're training to build muscle and just using jogging as a form of cardio for fitness, a protein shake before the jog may have benefits. For most, however, there's no need to add a protein shake to a preworkout protocol. For optimal performance, sports dietitian Chris Rosenbloom of the Georgia State University Athletic Department suggests a carb-based snack such as fruit yogurt, mini bagels with low-fat cheese or pretzels and fruit juice about 15 minutes before training. If you want more protein, include it in a meal around three to four hours before your jog.
- American Council on Exercise: What Should I Eat Before and After My Morning, Afternoon or Evening Workout?
- Sports and Exercise Nutrition; William McArdle et al.
- U.S. Anti-Doping Agency: Optimal Dietary Intake
- USA Swimming: Best Pre-Workout Foods