Correct nutrition before and after working out. In today’s blog we tackle the issue of what to eat before and after a workout. Over the years, I have personally tried many combinations of food and supplements before I got the correct combination for myself. It takes time.
People are different, and their needs are different, depending on their chosen activity. For example, a bodybuilder would require a totally different pre-workout than let`s say a long-distance runner. So, experiment a little until you find what best suits you.
Pre-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat Before a Workout
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always looking for ways to improve their performance and achieve their goals. Good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout.
Optimal nutrient intake prior to exercise will not only help you maximize your performance but also minimize muscle damage.
Here is everything you need to know about pre-workout nutrition.
Knowing What to Eat Is Important
Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.
Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout. However, the ratio in which you need to consume them varies by the individual and type of exercise.
Below is a brief look at the role of each macronutrient.
Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel.
Glycogen is the way the body processes and stores glucose, mainly in the liver and muscles.
For short- and high-intensity exercise, your glycogen stores are your muscles’ main source of energy.
But for longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors. These include the intensity, type of training and your overall diet.
Your muscles’ glycogen stores are limited. As these stores become depleted, your output and intensity diminish.
Studies have consistently shown that carbs can increase glycogen stores and utilization while boosting carb oxidation during exercise.
Carb loading, which involves consuming a high-carb diet for 1–7 days, is a well-known method to maximize glycogen stores.
Many studies have documented the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to improve athletic performance.
Eating protein (alone or with carbs) prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.
One study showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 grams of whey protein before exercise.
Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include:
- A better anabolic response, or muscle growth
- Improved muscle recovery
- Increased strength and lean body mass
- Increased muscle performance
While glycogen is used for short- and high-intensity bouts of exercise, fat is the source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise.
Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake on athletic performance. However, these studies looked at high-fat diets over a long period, rather than prior to exercise.
For example, one study showed how a four-week diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance running times in healthy, trained runners.
Carbs help maximize glycogen stores for high-intensity exercise, while fat helps fuel your body for longer, less intense workouts. Meanwhile, protein improves muscle protein synthesis and aids recovery.
The Timing of Your Pre-Workout Meal Is Key
The timing of your meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition.
To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat 2–3 hours before you exercise.
However, in some cases, you may not be able to get in a full meal 2–3 hours before working out.
In that case, then you can still eat a decent pre-workout meal. However, keep in mind that the sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and simpler the meal should be.
If you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein. This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.
It’s recommended to consume a full meal 2–3 hours before your workout. For meals eaten closer to your workout, choose simpler carbs and some protein.
Some Examples of Pre-Workout Meals
Which foods and how much to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of the workout.
A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise.
If you eat fat with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before your workout.
Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals:
If Your Workout Starts Within 2–3 Hours or More
- Sandwich on whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad
- Egg omelet and whole-grain toast topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit
- Lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables
If Your Workout Starts Within 2 Hours
- Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries
- Whole-grain cereal and milk
- A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds
- Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread
If Your Workout Starts Within an Hour or Less
- Greek yogurt and fruit
- Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients
- A piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or apple
Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat many pre-workout meals at different times. Just choose one of these.
For best results, experiment with different timings and nutrient compositions.
A combination of carbs and protein is recommended for pre-workout meals. Fat can also be beneficial, but it should be consumed at least two hours before exercise.
Supplements Can Also Be Useful Before Exercise
Supplement use is common in sports. These products may enhance performance, improve strength, increase lean body mass and reduce fatigue.
Below are some of the best pre-workout supplements.
Creatine is probably the most commonly used sports supplement.
It has been shown to increase muscle mass, muscle fiber size and muscle strength and power, all while delaying fatigue.
Even though it’s beneficial to take creatine before a workout, it seems to be even more effective when taken after a workout.
Taking 2–5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day is effective.
Among many other benefits, caffeine has been shown to improve performance, increase strength and power, help reduce feelings of fatigue and stimulate fat burning.
Caffeine can be consumed in coffee, tea and energy drinks, but it can also be found in pre-workout supplements and pills.
It doesn’t really matter how you consume it, as its effects on performance are usually the same.
Caffeine’s peak effects are seen 90 minutes after consumption. However, it has been shown to be effective even when ingested 15–60 minutes prior to exercise.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs refer to the essential amino acids valine, leucine and isoleucine.
Studies have shown that taking BCAAs before workouts helps decrease muscle damage and increase muscle protein synthesis.
A dose of 5 grams or more, at least an hour prior to exercise, is effective.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases your muscle stores of carnosine. It has been shown to be most effective for short- and high-intensity exercises.
It does this by increasing exercise capacity and muscle endurance while reducing fatigue.
The recommended daily dose is 2–5 grams, of which at least 0.5 grams should be consumed prior to your workout.
Multi-Ingredient Pre-Workout Supplements
Some people prefer products that contain a blend of the supplements mentioned above.
The combination of these ingredients may have synergistic effects and improve performance significantly.
Caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids, arginine and B vitamins are among the most commonly used ingredients in these products.
These pre-workout supplements have been shown to increase work output, strength, endurance, anaerobic power, reaction time, focus and alertness.
The particular dose depends on the product, but it’s generally recommended to take them about 30–45 minutes before exercise.
Creatine, caffeine, BCAAs and beta-alanine are often recommended before a workout. Multi-ingredient pre-workout supplements combine many different ingredients for optimal benefits.
Hydration Is Also Crucial
Your body needs water to function.
Good hydration has been shown to sustain and even enhance performance, while dehydration has been linked to significant decreases in performance.
It’s recommended to consume both water and sodium before exercise. This will improve fluid balance.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking 16–20 ounces (0.5–0.6 liters) of water at least four hours before exercise and 8–12 ounces (0.23–0.35 liters) of water 10–15 minutes before exercise.
Additionally, they recommend consuming a beverage that contains sodium to help retain fluids.
Water is important for performance. It’s recommended to drink water and sodium-containing beverages before exercise to promote fluid balance and prevent excessive fluid loss.
To maximize your performance and recovery, it’s important to fuel your body with the right nutrients before a workout. Knowing what to eat before a workout takes time to get the correct combination.
Carbs help maximize your body’s ability to use glycogen to fuel short- and high-intensity exercises, while fat helps fuel your body for longer exercise sessions.
Eating protein helps improve muscle protein synthesis, prevent muscle damage and promote recovery. Good hydration is also linked to enhanced performance.
Pre-workout meals can be eaten three hours to 30 minutes before a workout. However, choose foods that are easy to digest, especially if your workout starts in one hour or less. This will help you avoid stomach discomfort.
Additionally, many different supplements can aid performance and promote recovery.
At the end of the day, simple pre-workout nutrition practices can go a long way in helping you perform better and recover faster. So get the most out of your efforts by knowing what to eat before a workout.
Eating After a Workout Is Important. So, what to eat after a workout? You put a lot of effort into your workouts, always looking to perform better and reach your goals. Chances are you’ve given more thought to your pre-workout meal than your post-workout meal.
But consuming the right nutrients after you exercise is just as important as what you eat before, and the correct nutrition can certainly aid in recovery.
Here is a detailed guide to optimal nutrition after workouts.
Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout
To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to understand how your body is affected by physical activity.
When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged.
After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Without the correct nutrition your results will be seriously affected.
Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout. Doing this helps your body:
- Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
- Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
- Restore glycogen stores.
- Enhance recovery.
Getting in the right nutrients after exercise can help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores. It also helps stimulate growth of new muscle.
Protein, Carbs and Fat
Protein Helps Repair and Build Muscle
As explained above, exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein.
The rate at which this happens depends on the exercise and your level of training, but even well-trained athletes experience muscle protein breakdown.
Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue.
It’s recommended that you consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) very soon after a workout.
Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise.
Carbs Help With Recovery
Your body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them.
The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training.
For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (running, swimming, etc.), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.
Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen resynthesize.
Furthermore, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time.
Therefore, consuming both carbs and protein after exercise can maximize protein and glycogen synthesis.
Try consuming the two in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). For example, 40 grams of protein and 120 grams of carbs.
Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often, such as twice in the same day. If you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts, then this becomes less important.
Fat Is Not That Bad
Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients.
While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits.
For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk.
Moreover, another study showed that even when ingesting a high-fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out, muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected.
It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.
A post-workout meal with both protein and carbs will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein) is a practical way to achieve this.
The Timing of Your Post-Workout Meal Matters
Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise. For this reason, it’s recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising.
Although the timing does not need to be exact, many experts recommend eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes.
In fact, it’s believed that the delay of carb consumption by as little as two hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis.
However, if you consumed a meal before exercising, it’s likely that the benefits from that meal still apply after training.
Eat your post-workout meal within 45 minutes of exercising. However, you can extend this period a little longer, depending on the timing of your pre-workout meal.
Foods to Eat After You Workout
The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption.
The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Chocolate milk
- Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
- Rice cakes
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Animal- or plant-based protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bar
- Nut butters
- Trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)
Sample Post-Workout Meals
Combinations of the foods listed above can create great meals that provide you with all the nutrients you need after exercise.
Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
- Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
- Salmon with sweet potato.
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Tuna and crackers.
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds.
- Cottage cheese and fruits.
- Pita and hummus.
- Rice crackers and peanut butter.
- Whole grain toast and almond butter.
- Cereal and skim milk.
- Greek yogurt, berries and granola.
- Protein shake and banana.
- Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans.
- Multi-grain bread and raw peanuts.
Make Sure to Drink Plenty of Water
It is important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout.
When you are properly hydrated, this ensures the optimal internal environment for your body to maximize results.
During exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Replenishing these after a workout can help with recovery and performance.
It’s especially important to replenish fluids if your next exercise session is within 12 hours.
Depending on the intensity of your workout, water or an electrolyte drink are recommended to replenish fluid losses.
It is important to get water and electrolytes after exercise to replace what was lost during your workout.
Consuming a proper amount of carbs and protein after exercise is essential, and the correct balance will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery and enhance performance during your next workout.
If you’re not able to eat within 45 minutes of working out, it’s important to not go much longer than 2 hours before eating a meal.
Finally, replenishing lost water and electrolytes can complete the picture and help you maximize the benefits of your workout.
So, what to eat before and after a workout? That’s the question that hopefully we`ve helped to answer during this blog.