What to Eat Pre and Post Workout
When we discuss what to specifically eat before and after a workout I guess what we are really discussing is nutrient timing and having a workout nutritional strategy.
For athletes, bodybuilders and those competing in sports/events nutrient timing can play a major role in how well you perform and recover from sessions and having a nutritional strategy is important. If this is you, seek a sports nutritionist who can help you.
For the every day gym goer who trains for around 30-90mins, who trains to keep fit, improve their health, lose weight and generally look their best, having a workout nutritional strategy is probably not required, its not something you need to spend energy stressing about. Nutrition is hard enough and adding in this will likely only add confusion and stress.
What is important and should be a focus across each day for you though is this…
– The quality of the food you eat
– The amount of food you eat (calories) – is it in line with your goals?
– The amount of protein you eat – is it in line with your goals?
– Do you enjoy your approach and is it sustainable?
– Do you sleep 6-8 hrs. per day?
– Are you managing your stress levels?
If we stay on top of the above your performance and recovery from training and the results you will produce will be as optimal as you need it to be.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What we eat before and after we train can effect our energy levels within the session, our performance within the session, how hydrated we are, how well we will recover after the session and how well we preserve muscle.
Carbs play an important role in fuelling performance, giving us energy and helping with recovery.
Protein plays an important role in maintaining muscle, building muscle and helping with recovery.
Fats don’t play as big a role in performance and recovery as Carbs and Protein but they are important for general health as they provide us with lots of essential vitamins and minerals.
Positioning your workouts between main meals should be a sufficient way to meet your pre and post workout needs providing your main meals have sufficient portions of protein and carbohydrates. This will vary person to person.
Having a meal 2-3 hours pre workout will fuel you for that workout. Personally for me if its been 3 hours since my last main meal I tend to have the feeling of hunger and this can negatively affect my performance within the session so I would have a snack around 60mins out from the session to avoid this. Generally this would be something that isn’t too heavy and easier to digest. So you could say this is my personal workout nutritional strategy – nothing too fancy then.
If you are eating around 60mins from a session consider liquid based foods such as a protein shake, smoothies, yoghurts or fruits. These types of foods will be easier to digest and probably somewhat more convenient for you to consume that close to the session.
If it can be avoided I would try to not train on an empty stomach. That said I know those that train first thing in the morning most probably don’t have time to eat a well-balanced meal or want to get up early enough to do so either. I encourage all our early morning lifters to have a small liquid based meal pre workout if they have the required window to do so and it doesn’t make them feel sick. If they cant do this then I make sure they have something planned for immediately after the session. Like I said at the top timing isn’t overly important, what we eat across the day is so the advice here has to be practical and also specific to the person.
DURING THE WORKOUT
My recommendation would be water, or water with electrolytes if you sweat a lot. You don’t need to complicate it any further than this.
There is no evidence to suggest that post workout shakes are any better than a meal of solid foods for recovery or building muscle. Again if you don’t hit your required protein and calorie targets for the day its largely irrelevant if you’ve had a protein shake post workout or not. I personally haven’t had a post workout shake for about 7 years. There is also no evidence to suggest you need to get your post workout nutrition in as soon as you stop training. Positioning your training between main meals should allow for sufficient performance within the session and recovery after the session. For myself I prefer to eat around 60mins after the session has ended, this can vary from being a main meal or something more convenient depending on what other commitments I have and the time of day. Hitting my Protein and calorie target for the day is of greater importance to me than the timing of the meals around my training.
Focus on the basics first. Are you eating enough protein across the day? Are you eating the right amount of food and calories for your goals? Are you impriving the quality of food you consume? Do you get enough sleep and are you managing your physical and mental stress? Is your approach to your diet sustainable? This is what is important and what should be your focus day to day. Yes we can improve things if we have a workout nutritional strategy but its worthless if the basics are not in play and its also quite simple to achieve so long as the basics are in play.
Hope this helps.