Fitness for One and All Home Page

Books and eBooks by the Director

My Pre-workout/ Pre-contest Meals

by Gary F. Zeolla

What is best to eat before a workout or before a contest? I have experimented with different practices, and the following is what I have found works best for me.


I usually work out in the middle of the afternoon, and my workouts usually take about two hours. I have found that it is best if I time my lunch so that I am done eating 1 to 2 hours before I start working out. If I start any sooner than this I can feel the food “sitting” in my stomach. If I wait any longer I start to get hungry before I am done lifting.

Bowl of Oatmeal

I have found that a high (low glycemic) carbohydrate, low sugar, moderate protein, low fat pre-workout meal works best. Probably the best pre-workout meal for me is a bowl of oatmeal.

Specifically, I use cup of dry, quick oatmeal and a cup of a re-hydrated protein powder (two scoops to a quart of water). Oatmeal contains low glycemic carbs, so it provides sustained energy throughout the workout. And the protein powder provides amino acids that will be ready for the body to begin to repair itself upon completion of the workout.

I also add a small amount of honey (~1 tsp) or raisins (~2 Tbs). These naturally sweeten the oatmeal and provide some high glycemic carbs. These get into the system more quickly, and I seem to help me to have an easier time “getting started” since I started adding one of these.

And finally, I add a small amount of some kind of nuts (~2 Tbs). These add a little bit of fat. I found that without this fat I would get hungry before the end of my workout. But I’m careful no to add too much, or again, the food will feel like it is “sitting” in my stomach.

Roast Beef Club Sandwich

The second best pre-workout meal that I have found is a roast beef club sandwich, made with about two ounces of lean roast beef and three slices of Ezekiel (sprout grain) bread, along with a small handful of raisins.

The roast beef provides the appropriate mounts of protein and fat, and the raisins, again, provide a small amount of high glycemic carbs to help me get started.

As for the Ezekiel bread, it can be purchased in a health food store in the freezer section. It is very dense. A 1 loaf is smaller than a one pound loaf of white or even whole wheat bread. So it is very low glycemic. And in my opinion, it is the healthiest and best tasting bread available. So Ezekiel bread provides the needed low glycemic carbs to sustain me through my workout.


When I compete, the competition usually starts at 9:00 am, and I am usually staying in a hotel. I prefer not to risk eating breakfast at a restaurant, as I can never be sure of exactly what they put in the food. So I take food with me to eat in the hotel room.

I cannot cook oatmeal, so I eat a bowl of cold cereal instead. Specifically, I use Barbara’s Bakery’s Shredded Oats (again, purchased at a health food store). This is a rather dense cereal, so it is rather low glycemic for a cold cereal. The ingredients otherwise are the same as described for oatmeal above, except I add more nuts (~ 1/4 cup) so as not to get hungry through the several hour long contest. I take the dry protein powder with me and re-hydrate it in the hotel room.

Quick Meal Option

If for some reason I am not able to eat a regular meal pre-workout or pre-contest, my next best option is to eat two Parillo Energy Bars. The carbs in Parillo Bars are more moderate glycemic than oatmeal or Ezekiel bread, but they are still low glycemic enough so as not to cause an insulin rush. And Parillo Bars contain the appropriate ratio of carbs, protein, and fat for a pre-workout/ pre-contest meal.


I compete in the 114-pound weight class. So the reader will want to adjust the amount of food based on your body size and own experience. But what I have found works best for me would be a good starting point for your own experimentation.

My Pre-workout/ Pre-contest Meals. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site July 18, 2003.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Diet/ Eating Plan

Text Search     Alphabetical List of Pages  Contact Information

Fitness for One and All Home Page

Books and eBooks by the Director