Often I get asked what I recommend as a pre-workout option for those about to hit the gym! And my response is always the same. Keep. It. Real. Too often, store bought pre-workouts are full of artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners, not to mention the ingredients that are listed as numbers or we cannot even pronounce.
That is why today I want to touch on the benefits of four of my favourite pre-workout real food options. Magnesium rich cacao, MCT packed coconut oil, blood pumping beetroot and energy boosting organic coffee. Try incorporating these simple and affordable performance boosters into your nutritional program before you train and see and feel the results speak for themselves.
Cacao is packed full of Theobromine. Theobromine is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is a close chemical relative of caffeine. In the world of bodybuilding, it could help to improve workout intensity as well as being a natural diuretic.
In some respects, theobromine has similar effects to that of caffeine. However, it does not stimulate the nervous system to the same degree. Instead, it is effective in being able to dilate blood vessels. Some studies have found that cacao has an effect on increasing nitric oxide (NO) synthesis within the body, giving better pump if ingested pre workout.
MCT Oil's in Coconut Oil
The medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil (MCTs), are absorbed and then metabolised very rapidly. They are very efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use, instead of being stored as fat. They are used as energy much faster than glucose and have over twice the calories per gram, making them an excellent energy source during intense exercise. Research has shown the ability of MCTs to improve athletic performance and endurance.
MCTs also assist in preventing muscle breakdown in a number of ways. Firstly, they promote the production of ketones, which are used as an energy source in the muscles before amino acids (which become available through muscle breakdown), thereby delaying muscle catabolism (breakdown).
And secondly, they are able to act as amino acid ‘carriers’, helping to assimilate proteins inside the muscle, which further aids in preventing muscle loss and breakdown.
Beetroot Juice and Beetroot Tablets
Drinking beetroot juice before a workout can improve blood and oxygen flow in your muscles, enhancing your performance and increasing your endurance. The perfect all-natural, stimulant-free pre-workout supplement that helps you crush your exercise goals.
Beets are rich in nitrates. Dietary nitrates (found in veggies like celery, spinach, arugula, lettuces, and beets) convert in the body to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels, which is said to increase blood flow to working muscles. Increased blood flow means less fatigue, more endurance, and enhanced performance. Win, win, win!
Organic Black Coffee
Coffee has a number of functional benefits if consumed pre-exercise, that are supported by science.
A cup of black coffee before your workout can Improved micro-circulation. Improved blood circulation typically equates to improved oxygenation of your tissues, which may boost your exercise performance.
A 2005 study concluded that caffeine can reduce your perceived level of exertion by more than five percent—effectively making your exercise feel "easier." Moreover, caffeine improved exercise performance by more than 11 percent, which appears to be related to the reduction in perceived level of exertion.
I track my nutrition and training using my fitbit. If you are a fellow fitbit user, I would love to hear from you and compete with you on the app with challenges!