Recovery

The Pros and Cons of Using Eggs Before Your Workout

November 11th 2019

Most strength athletes are highly aware of the importance of consuming enough protein each day in order to maximize performance and recovery. It is generally recommended that strength-based athletes consume between 0.5-0.8 g·lb−1 body weight·d−1 of protein in order to meet their daily needs for performance and recovery purposes and most often these athletes consume protein from lean protein sources including chicken, turkey, beef or steak, cottage cheese, and fish. One of the most popular choices for a protein source by strength athletes includes eggs, whether it be from personal preference of the food or from being heavily influenced by the Rocky film series. Regardless of the personal reason that athletes choose to consume eggs, eggs are an amazing choice for obtaining complete protein and can serve a multitude of athletic goals.

Even though eggs are an extremely balanced food source in terms of nutrition there are several factors that come into play when deciding whether or not to consume eggs prior to lifting. These factors include the amount of time an athlete has to eat prior to training, the quantity of food and type of macronutrients consumed prior to and along with the consumption of eggs, and the ease of digestion off eggs along with personal preference. 

Eggs before your workout?

Nutrient timing, food tolerance and combination of different macronutrients will all play a role in what you should eat prior to your workout. Ideally, you want to eat foods high in proteins and depending on your goals, you will modify and adjust your fat and carbohydrate intake. If you want to be strong, eggs should be on your to-buy lists.

Amount of Time Prior to Training

One of the major factors which affects whether or not athletes should consume eggs prior to training is the amount of time an athlete has before they begin their training session. Common recommendations for the timing of meals prior to training include consuming a moderate-to-large meal sometime between 1 to 3 hours before strength training. It is also advised that if an athlete consumes a meal directly before their training session, around 30 – 45 min prior, they should have a meal which is made up of high glycemic carbohydrates in order to have immediate energy and quick digestion. The best meals for athletes prior to training tend to be those that are overall relatively low in fat and fiber, high in carbohydrates, and moderate in protein.

An individual egg, on average, contains close to 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and anywhere from 70-80 calories. Eggs provide a complete source of protein and can help athletes meet their daily recommended values for protein. In order to meet daily protein requirements, athletes should consume around 20-30 g of protein per meal. This would equate to 3 to 5 eggs per individual serving and would provide 18 to 30 grams of protein as well as 15 to 30 grams of fat.

Fats typically takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and most athletes usually shouldn’t eat meals with high fat content if they’re eating right before they lift. However, if an athlete feels they need a moderate amount of protein and fat before they lift having 1-3 eggs shouldn’t hurt performance in respect to potentially having issues with digestion. In fact, it’s been found that consuming a moderate amount of protein along with carbohydrates prior to training enhances muscle protein synthesis over consuming carbohydrates alone. If an athlete has ample time prior to lifting, such as 2-4 hours, they would be able to consume anywhere from 3-5 eggs to meet their protein and fat requirements per meal and still have time to digest their food without risk to their performance.

Other Macronutrients Consumed Prior to or Along with Eggs

Another major factor which affects whether or not athletes should consume eggs prior to training is the type and amount of macronutrients consumed prior to eating eggs or along with the consumption of eggs. If an athlete has already consumed a carbohydrate rich meal earlier in the day or a few hours prior to consuming eggs then there shouldn’t be much concern as to issues with digestion or having glycogen readily available during the lift as long as they don’t overconsume fat or protein. In this case, eating 1-3 eggs a few hours post a heavier meal should be fine as long as the athlete has about an hour or more prior to lifting. 

However, if the athlete plans on consuming a higher amount of carbohydrates along with eggs in the same meal they should plan to limit the amount of eggs eaten in order to allow their body to better digest all macronutrients involved in the meal. Fats tend to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates which could potentially harm a lifting session if an athlete’s body is not easily able to use glycogen for intense periods of activity or break down the carbohydrates eaten prior to the lift. Thus, athletes should try to limit the intake of eggs when eating them with other foods which have high carbohydrate content in order to make the most out of the meal and have glycogen available for the entire lifting session.

Ease of Digestion and Personal Preference.

A final factor which should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to consume eggs prior to training includes the ease of digestion of eggs along with personal preference. Some athletes are able to digest eggs without gastrointestinal issues whereas others may find it difficult to consume eggs prior to training hard. Athletes who do not find themselves struggling to digest eggs should abide by the recommendation of consuming eggs at least an hour prior to training along with the recommended protein serving size of 20 – 30 grams in order to digest them in enough time and use them towards muscle synthesis. 

Athletes who are unable to digest eggs due to sensitivity issues or personal preferences may want to look into consuming either whey or casein based protein instead. Whey and casein are intact high-quality proteins that are effective in the maintenance, repair, and synthesis of skeletal muscle proteins post intense training. Those who are vegan or vegetarian may rely instead on soy protein to help support this role as well.

Closing Thoughts, Using Eggs Pre-Workout: An Individual’s Decision

Altogether, it is up to the individual athlete to decide whether or not consuming eggs prior to training is optimal for them. In most cases this decision will be impacted by factors including the amount of time an athlete has prior to training, the quantity and type of macronutrients consumed prior to and along with the consumption of eggs, as well as an individual’s ability to digest eggs  or their personal preference. 

Strength athletes should remember to consume a sufficient amount of protein each day in order to aid with protein synthesis following intense lifting sessions. The amount of protein an athlete should eat per meal typically ranges from 20 – 30 grams on average but athletes should make sure that they have enough time to properly digest their meals in order to maximize performance. Eating a serving of 3-5 eggs for a meal should help athletes in meeting their daily requirements for both protein and fat intake but athletes should ensure that the consumption of eggs doesn’t interfere with the breakdown of carbohydrates needed during the lift.

Remember, the best meals prior to training are ones which prepare athletes for the upcoming activity with sufficient energy, provide enough caloric value to thwart hunger, and are easily digestible.

References

  1. (2009). Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise41(3), 709–731. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e31890eb86
  2. Campbell, B., Kreider, R. B., Ziegenfuss, T., Bounty, P. L., Roberts, M., Burke, D., … Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition4(1), 8. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-4-8
  3. Kreider et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:7 http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/7
  4. Sarwar, G. (1997). The Protein Digestibility–Corrected Amino Acid Score Method Overestimates Quality of Proteins Containing Antinutritional Factors and of Poorly Digestible Proteins Supplemented with Limiting Amino Acids in Rats. The Journal of Nutrition127(5), 758–764. doi: 10.1093/jn/127.5.758
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