If you don’t have a nutrition plan for your fitness routine, you’re doing yourself a pretty big disservice when it comes to getting the results that you desire. If you workout while you’re starved, you simply won’t have the energy for your body to gain maximum fitness. And if you don’t feed your muscles and replenish your energy stores after exercise, you won’t have the necessary building blocks for recovery.
In this article, you’re going to learn about ideal pre-workout, and post-workout nutrition, with a quick and dirty tip for optimizing each of these components of fitness fueling.
What Should You Eat Before Workout
Pre-workout nutrition is the meal that provide sustained fuel to ensure optimal performance during your workout. It involves not only what foods are best, but the timing of these foods.
The primary goal of the PRE workout meal is to accomplish the following:
- Reduce muscle glycogen depletion.
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown.
- Reduce post workout cortisol levels.
The best food to eat before a workout depends on when you’re going to eat it. The rule is this: The less time until the workout, the less you should eat. This makes sense: It takes time to digest food, so you don’t want to scarf down a huge breakfast right before getting on the treadmill.
The closer to your workout, the more you want to focus on eating carbohydrates rather than fat or protein. Carbohydrates are digested in the small intestines, whereas fat and protein are broken down in the stomach. This means cramping and indigestion are more likely when you work out with a belly full of fat- or protein-rich foods.
Pre-workout nutritional regimen should be broken down into two phases before working out.
Phase 1: Before 90-120 Minutes Workout Starts
Digestion of a meal usually takes around 2 hours depending on your metabolism and how much you eat. So this pre-workout meal must be eaten about 1 ½ to 2 hours before your workout, or you simply won’t be making the most of the nutrients you’ve just ingested.
- Meal should be high in complex (slow digestive) carbohydrates. This is the main fuel you’ll be using during your workout, preventing your body from tapping into muscle for energy. During intense exercise, as stored energy is used up, the body will convert sugars (carbs) into to ATP and provide ultimate energy you need to contract a muscle. Slower digesting carbs will sustain you throughout your entire workout and hence prolong your performance.
- High in protein. As the building block of muscle, protein is vital to maintain a positive nitrogen balance necessary to stimulate maximum protein synthesis.
- Relatively low in fat. A small amount of fat is useful also to control blood sugars, sustain digestion and release of nutrients and provide energy.
Pre-workout Meal Idea
Here are some good slow digesting (low glycemic index) pre workout snacks:
- Chicken pasta
- Tuna sandwich
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Turkey/Chicken sandwich
- Chicken & potato
- Muscle gain protein shake
- Rice/rice cakes
- Beef, Boiled egg etc.
Phase 2: Quick Energy
Before 15-30 minutes your workout starts which will give you a quick short burst of energy for workout session. Consume simple (fast digestive) carbohydrates and whey protein shake to provide the body with an immediate energy source.
Fruits, such as oranges, make an excellent addition to your pre-workout meal. Bananas, dates and apples are also excellent options if oranges are not to your liking.
Never Workout on Empty Stomach!!! With nothing in your stomach you will more than likely either feel lethargic for the entire workout. Your intensity and strength capacity suffer or crash 10 minutes in. As a consequence, you’re unable to push yourself to the limit, leading to a less-than-stellar performance in the gym.
What Should You Eat While Exercising?
- Just water. During a workout, drink one-fourth to one-half of a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes throughout your training session. In warm weather you may need more because of increased water loss due to sweating.
- If you do workouts > 60 minutes, start sipping your post-workout shake around this time. You may also want to consider some clean fats before your workout to boost energy levels in this scenario.
What Should You Eat After A Workout?
The post workout fuel is very important if you want to see a difference in your body! What you eat after a workout matters! No matter what time of the day your workout is! It is commonly nicknamed as the “Anabolic phase”, as anabolism refers to the “building” (or even “rebuilding”) of something.
Quite simply, your POST workout meal is the meal that plays the largest role in supplying your body with everything it will need to repair, replenish, recover and adapt to the training stimulus that you just provided during your workout.
Specifically, the goal of the POST workout meal is to accomplish the following:
- Replenish muscle glycogen that was depleted during your workout.
- Reduce muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise.
- Increase muscle protein synthesis.
- Reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.
- Greatly enhance overall recovery.
- Reduce cortisol levels.
Phase 1: 60 Minutes After Your Workout Starts Or Immediately after your workout
The Sooner the Better! During this time your metabolism and absorption rate is very high and we want to take advantage of this.
- Post-workout shake containing protein and a high GI carb, e.g dextros. Whey protein is the fastest digesting protein there is. Some people feel bloated from pure dex, so try a mix and see what works for you.
- Milk Is The Ultimate Post Workout Food.
- Optimum 100% Whey is my favorite kind of protein powder. Not only is it extremely high-quality, bioavailable protein; it supports the immune system by providing the building blocks for glutathione, arguably the body’s most important antioxidant.
- Mix 1 scoop whey + 1 scoop dextrose with 250ml milk for your post-workout shake.
Phase 2: About 60-120 Minutes After Your Workout
Have a balanced meal as per the initial meal above. Meal should consist of carbohydrates and proteins for recovery. The foods eaten here should be made up of slow-releasing nutrients, so your muscles receive a steady flow of nutrients, to make the most of your recovery time.
Post-workout Meal Idea
|Slow Digestive Carbohydrates||Foods High in Protein (This is easy)|
|Whole wheat breads, not the processed ones||Lean beef or any kind of meat low in fat|
|Sweet potatoes: are very healthy too and they have slow burning carbs||Fish|
|Brown rice, almost everyone eats this||Eggs|
|Vegetables||Nuts also have good fats in them especially almonds|
- Avoid high fiber meals within 2 hrs before or 2 hours after your workout. High fiber can upset your stomach a bit. Fiber counts as carbs yet don’t do much for getting protein into your muscles. Fiber is important, but at different times of day. Some fiber with every meal is fine (especially veggies), but don’t have a fiber-heavy meal right after your workout.
- Avoid food with high fat within 2 hrs before or 2 hours after your workout. Fat will slow down the absorption of the protein and carbs. You still need healthy fats (fish oils, nuts, olive oil, etc.) – just other times of day.
Nutrition is believed to be the most important factor in the fitness world. It is important you get nutrition right or you will not see the results you should be getting.
The most critical time to get nutrition right is before, after and during your workout. If you eat before and during your workout, your energy levels will be ideal, and muscle breakdown will be minimized. By eating after a workout, you promote muscle growth and recovery!