by Ashley Kailing on Sept 18, 2021
Whether the purpose of your workout is to; lose weight, gain weight, prepare for your sport or simply for overall health benefits, having a proper nutrition plan is going to be key to success.
There are many questions about nutrition, but one that is asked frequently is, “What should I eat before and after a workout?”
Of course, depending on someone’s specific goals, nutrition can vary. What I want to educate you on in this article is the general overview of what proper nutrition looks like for pre and post workout.
WHY AND WHAT TO EAT BEFORE A WORKOUT?
Eating before a workout gives us fuel to put maximal effort into our training. Have you ever skipped eating before a workout and noticed you were slightly dizzy or exhausted? Well, that is what we are trying to avoid.
And one of the best ways to avoid this is by fueling your body with carbohydrates. Carbs are your best friend when it comes to pre-workout fuel.
When you eat carbs they break down immediately into glucose (sugar), then enter our cells, where they provide your body with energy.
Any carbs that do not get used are called glycogen and will be stored in the liver and muscles for future use.
Another great source to have before a workout is protein. Protein will have you feeling fuller longer, but is also made of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and will keep you from breaking down muscle tissue while training.
Two things that are not your friend before training are foods high in fiber and fat. Eating high fiber and fats before a workout will slow your metabolism and make you feel more sluggish.
So what specifically should you eat before a workout?
Smaller (Snack) options:
- Dried Fruits
- Greek Yogurt
Bigger (Meal) Options:
- Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Wheat Bagel with Egg Whites
- Fish and Brown Rice
WHEN TO EAT BEFORE A WORKOUT?
Eating 1 hour prior to training is ideal. However, since everyone digests food differently, try playing around with your timing (45 mins - 1 ½ hours) to see what is best for you.
Something you want to avoid is eating right before working out. Eating too close to training will have your body working on digesting the food you just ate, which can make your workout rather uncomfortable.
WHY AND WHAT TO EAT AFTER A WORKOUT?
Now that we know how important it is to fuel your body before a workout, we can move to post-workout fuel which is just as crucial.
By not eating the right foods or even at all after training, your body will not be able to do a few things:
- It will not be able to perform as well the next day
- You will be sore for much longer
- You may lose a lot of the progress you just made during that workout
Your after workout meal or snack is going to be very similar to your pre-workout. You want to keep your focus around carbs and especially protein.
As stated before, when you workout you use up most of your carbs, if not all of them. So now you need to replenish the body, especially if it was a heavy lifting day or simply high-intensity focused, you don't want to leave the body depleted of energy.
Protein is also very important because after just stressing out your muscles, you want to make sure they repair and build back up properly.
After all, you just put in all that work, you don’t want it to go to waste.
So what specifically should you eat after a workout? Here’s a few great options:
- Protein Shake with Fruit or Granola
- Chocolate Milk
- Turkey Sandwich
- Chicken Pasta
- Cottage Cheese and Applesauce
WHEN TO EAT AFTER A WORKOUT?
The WHEN; this is always a debated topic because some people say to eat RIGHT after a workout and others will say you can take an hour or two.
Truth is, BOTH can be correct.
A few reasons it would BEST to eat RIGHT after a workout would be:
- You have not eaten in approx. 2 ½ - 3 Hours (Or longer)
- You worked at a very high intensity the whole session
- You have specific goals you are trying to obtain….i.e. Bodybuilding
On the other hand, if you are still feeling very full from your pre-workout fuel and would prefer to wait maybe 40 minutes to an hour, that can be okay.
The main thing you are trying to stay away from is neglecting the body of proper nutrition and replenishment.
Bottom line is that when it comes to pre or post nutrition: Starving the body will not lead to better success in the gym and certainly will not help you reach your goals, it will only hinder it.
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