By Dr. Brittany Masteller
A successful workout is more than what you do in the weight room (although that is important!). To maximize your time in the gym, there are some evidence-based things that you can do before making your way to the gym that will help you have a successful workout. We're diving into five tips to consider when preparing for a workout.
5 Tips for Preparing for a Workout
When and what you eat prior to a training session is important to maximize results as a strength athlete! In addition to a properly designed resistance training program, meals that support muscle protein synthesis are important. These meals should have an appropriate amount of calories, and distribution of macronutrients.Current recommendations are that 2-4 hours prior to the training session, easily-digestible carbohydrates are ingested (1-4 g/kg of body weight), along with 20-30 g lean protein, and that the meal is generally lower in fiber and fat. Then, 30 minutes to 2 hours prior (depending on preference, schedule, and digestion patterns), a snack/meal that is high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber is consumed.
Supplementation prior to a training session can include a pre-workout, such as Buff Chick's Buff Pre or Buff Pump. The ingredients included in Buff Pre – the caffeinated version of Buff Chick’s pre-workouts – have been studied and shown to help performance, include: beta alanine, l-citrulline, and caffeine. Let’s talk about each of these and how they impact performance.
- Beta Alanine: Research that has looked at the effects of beta alanine supplementation increases time to exhaustion (e.g. it takes longer to fatigue), and can help improve training volume (2). Beta alanine can also contribute to those pre-workout “tingles” due to the increase in blood flow.
- L-Citrulline: Some studies suggest that L-citrulline supplementation increases high intensity strength and power performance (3).
- Caffeine: Several studies have reported a positive effect of caffeine on one repetition maximum testing, muscular endurance, and power. Additionally, caffeine ingestion can lower the perception of difficulty (rating of perceived exertion; RPE) (4). Buff Pre uses a natural caffeine source of green coffee bean extract.
While creatine does not necessarily need to be taken before your workout, it may be helpful to take it with your pre-workout, to help you remember to take it every day. Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements and has consistently been shown to improve power output during resistance training. According to the International Society for Sports Nutrition, “Creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes with the intent of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training” (5). Buff Chick uses micronized Creatine Monohydrate, which dissolves easily and mixes well with other supplements.If you want an even deeper dive on the research and studies that support the efficacy of these products, you can always check out the research page.
The goal for pre-workout hydration is to be euhydrated, meaning you are not over or under hydrated. To achieve that, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests slowly drinking beverages at least 4 hours before the exercise session. If you do not produce urine, or the urine is dark or highly concentrated after that, slowly drink more fluids about 2 hours prior (6). Beverages with electrolytes (such as sports drinks) are not necessary for consumption unless you are showing signs of dehydration.
A good warm-up will prepare your body and mind for your workout. It doesn’t need to be complicated or longer than 8-10 minutes, but should be intentional. When crafting a warm up, consider the following elements:
- It increases your heart rate and body temperature.
- It includes body weight or lower than working weight sets of the movements that you’ll be doing in your workout.
- It’s dynamic.
A good warm up will help prepare you for your workout, but not be such a high intensity that it negatively impacts the rest of your workout.
The last thing you want to do is nail your pre-workout nutrition, supplementation, hydration, and warm up to then get to the gym without a workout ready to go. If you aren’t following a structured lifting program, we recommend Stronger by the Day, Meg’s daily strength programming ready for you to jump into. When using Stronger by the Day, your workout programming is all set! You just show up and do the work, and a warm up is included… so you can nail our fourth tip in this article, too. You can join Stronger by the Day for just $9.99/month. When using this program, the warm up, exercise selection, sets, reps, progressions, etc. are already done for you. Plus, your membership includes both a gym version and at-home/bodyweight version.
If you are new to the gym, it might take some time to completely nail your workout preparation using these 5 tips. These tips are general guidelines that can serve as a great way to get started, and you can adjust them according to your personal preference and needs as you learn what works best!
1. Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
2. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: Beta-Alanine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:30. Published 2015 Jul 15. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0090-y
3. Gonzalez AM, Trexler ET. Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. J Strength Cond Res. 2020 May;34(5):1480-1495. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003426. PMID: 31977835.
4. Grgic J, Mikulic P, Schoenfeld BJ, Bishop DJ, Pedisic Z. The Influence of Caffeine Supplementation on Resistance Exercise: A Review. Sports Med. 2019 Jan;49(1):17-30. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0997-y. PMID: 30298476.
5. Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017).
6. Exercise and Fluid Replacement, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2007 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - p 377-390.