Pre-Workout Nutrition With Janis Isaman: What To Eat 24 Hours Before An Intense Workout To Lose Weight

Intense workout classes are well, intense. What’s even more challenging is consuming the right foods leading up to class to maximize weight loss. Janis Isaman, Meal Ninja Head Coach and expert nutritionist is here to help...

Not to downplay consistently eating healthy - what are the benefits consuming the right foods and nutrients 24 hours leading up to an intense workout?

You want to consistently eat a high nutrient diet, but the 24 hours leading up to an intense workout will consistently ensure your best performance. Your body will find the resources it needs to power through the workout, so entering the House with proper hydration and nutrient-saturated tissues means your body (and brain) can easily find what they need to give your best.

From a macro nutrient perspective, what should the ideal pre-workout meal consist of for athletes looking to perform at the highest levels?

Performance is all about the glycogen (or sugar) in your blood. A 2014 study on pre-workout nutrition and published in Nutrients Journal studied the impact of carbohydrate meals vs carbohydrate + fat meals vs carbohydrate + protein meals. There are benefits to adding some protein and fat, so you want to have a mixed meal in order to optimize performance.

Specific percentages are generally relatively difficult to figure out when you are eating breakfast, so ensure that your meal has plenty of carbohydrates (aka, the size of your palm), plus at least a thumb-sized addition of oil and a tennis ball worth of protein. Two medium whole grain pancakes plus some coconut oil and a hard boiled egg is one example.

How long before the workout should this meal be consumed?

You want to eat 120-180 minutes before you enter the gym, no matter what time your workout is happening (I know, this can be tough for the early morning crowd).

The study cited above also examined the impact of various meal compositions and timing found that eating 2-3 hours prior to exercise consistently improved performance. Notably, eating within 75 minutes of starting a workout had NO impact on performance, so you definitely want to pay attention to the clock.

Any tips to ensure this meal doesn't end up on the turf?

Your two highest risks for throwing up during a workout are caused by directly opposite reasons: you have undigested food left in your stomach (ick)  or you have no blood sugar in your body to access (only slightly less ick). To avoid this, you want to eat long enough (and light enough) before you start your workout that you are digesting your meal, but you want to eat within the window that your body has started to break down the food and can access the energy.

I've also known some people (like me) to get sick from Gatorade, as it spikes the blood sugar too quickly.

What impact does consuming junk food (refined sugars) 24 hours leading up to the workout have on speed, agility and overall performance if any?

Junk food is nutritionally empty. So while you probably won't die, you also won't feel your best.

Triathlete Brendan Brazier is an example of an athlete who shifted from high-calorie training to high-nutrient dense training and he reports he was able to cut his training time and maintain his performance levels through dietary changes alone, due to the decrease in nutritional stress.

What about alcohol? Is consuming a small amount, such as a glass of wine ok?

Before the gym? Is there something you want to talk about?

Assuming you mean the night before, it won't destroy you. Blood sugar levels drop up to 80% during the 8-10 hours you sleep (which is interpereted as a fast by your body). So the impacts are largely gone by morning. However, drinking generally negatively impacts your blood sugar, fat storage, so it won't help you if you regularly drink.

It also means it's ultra imperative that you get up in the morning and eat 2-3 hours before the gym.

For those fearful of consuming carbs at night how important is it to consume the right carbs during dinner the night before taking a high intensity workout first thing in the morning?

The night before doesn't matter as much as the 2-3 hour window immediately prior. If you generally want to "avoid carbs", a great meal for that low-carb choice is at dinner the night before your morning workouts, so long as you DO eat carbs the morning of.

One key takeaway readers should have when it comes to nutrition in the 24 hour period leading up to a high intensity workout...


Yes, you need to eat carbs.


-Janis, Meal Ninja blackbelt certified nutritionist and Head Coach

Take action: Schedule free 15 minute consultation call with Janis

Learn more about Janis on our Meet The Head Coach page