All You Need to Know About Pre-workout and Post-workout Nutrition
As the old saying goes, fitness begins in the kitchen. That’s because if you are going to work out, your body needs support with the right amount of amino acids, carbs, and protein for muscle repair and growth.
Pre-workout meals and post-workout nutrition are an important part of daily nutrition. Planning your meals and timing them right can help you see results quickly and comes with many other benefits, too. In fact, applying certain diet techniques can help you control your weight easier, keep fat levels down, strengthen your immune system and help you sleep at night.
Depending on the workout, eating before certain fitness routines is important. This may be especially true for endurance training or certain types of intense cardio. In fact, in some cases exercising before your first meal of the day can lead to low blood sugar, causing one to feel lethargic or light-headed. If your goal is strength training, working out without having a meal prior might interfere with the intensity of the workout, which can slow progress.
For those who are 55 and older, it becomes more important to have a pre-workout meal. During the night, the body breaks down muscle tissue to sustain blood glucose levels. Some nutrition experts believe that working out before you eat will cause the process to continue, leading to a less than productive workout.
When choosing an appropriate pre-workout meal, consider the time of day you exercise, the workout you will do and your fitness goals. For example, if you workout as soon as you get up in the morning, you plan a lighter workout. If your goal is weight loss, a banana or protein shake might suffice. If you will workout later in the day with the same criteria, focus on protein and carb balance. The following are some examples of pre-workout meals:
· One Hour or Less Before Workout
o Piece of fruit like a banana or apple
· Workout within 2 Hours
o Protein shake with banana or berries
o Oatmeal with fruit and almonds
o Whole-grain cereal with nut milk or regular milk
· Workout 2-3 Hours Away
o Lean protein with vegetables and whole-grain (like brown rice)
o Egg omelet with whole-grain toast
o Sandwich with whole grain bread, lean protein, and leafy greens
Depending on your goals, supplements may be an important addition to your nutritional plan. These are often used with the goal of reducing fatigue, ensuring adequate protein intake or reducing body fat. Some supplements that may be beneficial before your workout include:
· Creatine to increase muscle mass and strength and to delay fatigue
· BCAAs, or branched-chain amino acids to lessen muscle damage and support repair
· Beta-Alanine, an amino acid to increase muscle endurance
Your muscles deserve to be rewarded with healthy nutrition after your workout. Exercise partially depletes your muscles of glycogen while muscle fibers get broken down. Once your workout is over, the body goes into repair mode to rebuild glycogen stores and repair muscles. Consuming a healthy combination of proteins and carbs can help the repair process.
Many fitness enthusiasts realize the importance of protein for muscle repair. But getting the right amount is important, too. In fact, studies show that consuming 20 to 40 grams of protein can maximize the body’s ability to repair itself after a workout. (1)
Carbs and fats are also crucial for healthy muscle recovery. After a workout, your body attempts to replenish glycogen stores, and carbs support this process. This is especially true for endurance athletes or long bouts of cardio exercise. Consuming a small number of healthy fats may promote muscle growth and provide extra benefits like brain health.
When to Eat Post-Workout Meal
Many fitness experts feel the post-workout meal should be consumed within an hour of exercise, while others feel it is important to do so 45 minutes after. But the timing may be affected by your pre-workout meal. Delaying carbs too long after a workout, like two hours or more, can lower glycogen synthesis. But if you consumed a healthy meal with proteins and carbs before your workout, the benefits may last after your workout, which means you can wait a bit longer to eat after exercising.
What to Eat Post-Workout
The best foods to eat after a workout are those that are easily digested. Easy to digest carbs could include:
· Sweet potatoes
· Leafy, green vegetables
Healthy post-workout proteins could include:
· Protein shake
Healthy fats that are easy to digest include:
· Nut butters
· Drizzle of olive oil or flaxseed oil
Of course, any pre-workout and post-workout nutritional plans should include plenty of hydration with fresh, clean water. If your workouts are intense, consider using an electrolyte drink or make your own. Endurance athletes might consider a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbs.
No matter what your fitness goals are, you will get much more from your workouts when you incorporate the right nutrition. You can keep it simple by avoiding fast foods and junk foods and focus on a whole-food, a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. When you get the nutrition right, your workouts will be productive and you will have the energy and motivation for the rest of the day.
1 Biolo, G., Tipton, K. D., Klein, S., & Wolfe, R. R. (1997, July). An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Retrieved January 11, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9252488.