Fueling your body properly going into each workout will ensure that you can put forth a maximum effort level and likewise, eating properly immediately after will help kick-start the recovery process. If you aren’t quite sure what you should be eating and when, don’t worry, we have you covered. Here is your complete guide to pre and post workout nutrition.
Pre-workout nutrition essentially refers to any food that you eat in the hour or two leading up to your workout program.
Let’s talk about why you need pre-workout nutrition. First and foremost, it’s to fuel the session ahead. If you aren’t eating before your workout, it’s like taking a car to drive on an empty fuel tank. You simply won’t get very far. Without glucose present in the body, unless you are just doing very low intensity activity, you simply won’t maintain the intensity that you desire.
By planning your food wisely at this time, you also ensure that you don’t end up feeling weighed down by the meal, impacting your workout performance. Eat the wrong foods in the hours leading up to your session and it can affect performance.
So, what should you be eating pre-exercise? You should aim for a lighter meal consisting of around 200-300 calories. This will help you feel energized, but not sluggish. About half the meal should be a lean source of protein, while the other half is a slower digesting source of carbohydrate. Good protein options would include chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites, or white fish. Smart carb choices on the other hand might be rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, or oatmeal. If you are exercising very shortly after you consume this meal, then you might choose to use a faster digesting source of carbohydrates such as a banana or some white potato. This will allow the carbs to hit your body faster, which then means that you get the much-needed energy in time for your workout.
Note that fat content should be relatively low at this time. Aim to keep the meal to no more than around 5-6 grams of fat. If you eat too much fat here, it will slow digestion down and will make you feel less energetic when it comes time for your workout.
When should you be eating the pre-workout meal? Aim to eat it around 60-90 minutes prior to exercise if you can. If it’s a morning workout, this may not be as realistic, so then 30 minutes prior would be fine. Just note that you will want those fast-acting carbs instead and may choose to go with a liquid protein source. You’ll want to play around with different timing and food choices to figure out what’s going to work best for you.
Post Workout Nutrition
Now we move onto post-workout nutrition, which includes any food that you eat in the hour or so after the workout is completed.
So why should you be focusing on post-workout nutrition? The biggest reason here is to help fuel recovery. As glycogen stores will be diminished, you will be able to restore muscle glycogen levels rapidly, while also kick-starting protein synthesis to take place. As this occurs, you’ll then be rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue rapidly. Think of your post workout nutrition as a means to help you prepare for your next workout.
What should you eat for post workout nutrition? Here you want to think rapid digestion. The faster those nutrients can get into your blood stream, the better. For this reason, most people opt for a whey isolate protein powder, which has been formulated to be very quickly digesting in the body. If you cannot use protein powder for whatever reason, then an alternate option would be egg whites or white fish, both of which tend to digest a little more quickly.
For the carbohydrate side of things, choose faster acting carbs here as well. A banana is perfect as it contains the simple sugars that will move into the blood stream shortly upon eating it. Alternatively, you can also choose foods like white potatoes, white rice, or even a half (or whole) bagel here. While you wouldn’t eat these white foods at other points during the day, right after a workout they can actually be beneficial.
Once again, fat should be kept out of the picture at this time. The more fat-free you can make this meal, the better. Dietary fat will just slow down the entire digestion process, working against the goals you have at this time. Save your fats for other times during the day when they’ll benefit you more.
When should you eat your post workout meal? For this one, you want to consume it as soon after the workout as possible, ideally within the first 30 minutes. This is the primary time when your body will be most sensitive to taking up the nutrients, so when it will benefit you the most. If you want to shower first before eating, that’s fine, but do have it as soon after that as you possibly can.
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