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It’s a bitter winter evening, and you’re pounding the streets with the wind howling round your face, rain stinging your bare legs and the cold biting into you every step you take. You try to plough on through, yet your rumbling stomach and groggy head say otherwise and you call it a night, heading home to watch TV.
Why Pre Workout Nutrition and Hydration Matters
We’ve all been there – running the roads, cycling up hills or even just plodding away on the bike or the elliptical at the gym – your legs are lead weights, your heart and lungs are burning and you feel like your workout is never going to end. These issues can be solved with one simple measure though – pre workout nutrition.
Whether you’re doing cardio for fat loss purposes, to maintain general fitness or because you’re preparing for a specific event, what you eat before your workout is vital. The food you eat prior to training will be the catalyst for a fantastic performance and a new personal best, or the reason why you quit early and give up.
The type of cardio you’re doing doesn’t matter too much as the rules generally stay the same. Pre-cardio nutrition doesn’t need to be massively complicated either. While sports nutrition companies would have you believe that you need all the latest fancy supplements, electrolyte drinks, perfect levels of hydration and certain nutrients, the truth is that unless you’re a professional athlete with access to multi-million dollar laboratories and an army of sports scientists, you’re never going to find that holy grail of a scientifically optimal pre-training protocol.
What you can do, however, is stick to a series of basic guidelines and work within these to find what suits you best.
Before going through these though, a little note on hydration.
Hydration is often overlooked as people tend to favor researching food and supplements’ effect on performance, but for any athletes, and cardiovascular trainers particularly, hydration is vital.
During cardio you’re going to sweat, hopefully a lot too, if you’re training hard, which means that you’ll lose water. You’ve probably experienced mild dehydration in the summer or if you’ve been on holiday in a hot country. It makes you feel light-headed, dizzy and not quite all there. Now imagine that feeling multiplied ten-fold while you’re trying to work at a high intensity and concentrate on a race or tough training session.
You need a steady fluid intake throughout the day, but should also drink a little extra in the couple of hours leading up to your session. Don’t overdo it, as too much can cause digestive discomfort, stomach cramps and stitches, but aim to drink at least half a liter in the hour or two before you start.
There’s no need to choose pre-made electrolyte or sports performance drinks unless you’re competing in an event lasting over 90 minutes as your body has enough stored vitamins, minerals and electrolytes without needing to take on more. Just plain water is all you need, although if you are partial to cramping or the weather is particularly hot and humid, adding half an electrolyte tablet or just a pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon to the water will ensure adequate hydration and electrolyte levels to reduce muscle spasms and cramps.