As a trainer, I often get asked what to eat “before” and “after” a workout.
While the average exerciser can benefit from nutrient timing (pre-and post-workout meals), most people can meet their workout nutrition needs by eating a healthy, well-balanced meal 1-2 hours before exercise and another within 1-2 hours after exercise, which would make my nutrition programs perfect for you!!
But let’s dive in a little more though, shall we?
A pre-workout meal is usually eaten 2-3 hours before a workout and includes a balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein (a balanced meal).
You can see that if you are eating every few hours, you are likely in that window.
Some people choose to eat closer to their workout.
Suppose you are eating less than an hour before a hard workout. Opting for something liquid, like a shake or smoothie, will allow your body to digest the nutrients more quickly – helping you avoid getting an upset tummy during your workout. For example, if I’m working out right after I wake up, I’ll opt for a protein shake.
If you need a quick burst of energy before a workout, opt for fast-acting carbohydrates (aka simple carbohydrates) because they can easily digest and supply the body with energy very quickly. Simple carbs are mostly found in refined grain products, some fruits, and some dairy.
If your stomach tends to feel uneasy when you eat too close to a workout, try having a shake or smoothie (easier to digest) an hour or two before exercise.
Those looking to gain weight or add muscle may opt to eat 2-3 hours before a workout and then include a pre-workout shake 30 minutes before training.
Here is a simple example of a pre-workout smoothie…
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (this is the one that I use)
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 banana
- 1 cup of milk, almond milk or coconut water
- A handful of ice cubes
- Optional: honey
When we exercise, our bodies break down muscle. When we rest and recover, our muscles grow, so optimizing recovery is an important part of exercise.
There is a thing called the anabolic window, which means that there is about a 30-minute window after exercise or performance that is the ideal time for your body to use carbohydrates (glucose) and protein.
During this time, the muscles can better absorb protein, carbs, and other vitamins and minerals. The goal is to replenish muscles so that they grow and recover faster.
Eating carbohydrates immediately after exercise replenishes glycogen storages (what the body uses for energy) two times more than if you consumed them 2+ hours after exercise.
Adding protein with carbs to the post-workout meal maximizes the body’s ability to restore glycogen levels, reduce muscle damage, and repair muscles.
A combination of fast and slow-digesting carbs will immediately replenish energy needs and aid in prolonged energy.
Fast-acting carbohydrates (aka simple carbohydrates) can easily digest and supply the body with energy very quickly. Simple carbs are mostly found in refined grain products, some fruits, and some dairy. You can also find them in high-sugar foods such as candy and soda – but these are not your ideal choice for fast-acting carbohydrates!
Note: Simple carbs can be a good option before a workout if you need a quick boost of energy.
Slow-digesting carbs – such as yams, wild and brown rice, beans, legumes, vegetables, red potatoes, oat bran, rolled oats, and whole-grain and whole-wheat bread – are loaded with nutrients and fiber. These foods produce relatively slow increases in blood glucose.
The recommended ratio of carbs to protein varies between experts but is generally 2:1 to 4:1 carbs to protein ratio. For example, 50 grams of carbs and 25 grams of protein (2:1) or 60 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein (4:1).
Here is the thing… athletes and bodybuilders have used timing meals around workouts for decades. However, many studies show that most people don’t need to replenish carb or protein stores right away.
If you ate a few hours before a workout, your body would likely be able to use some of that fuel during the anabolic window. So, eating exactly 30 minutes after your workout may not be so crucial.
However, if you are working out first thing in the morning or are in a fasted state (have not eaten for 3 hours or more), you will need that anabolic window to replenish your energy stores and repair the muscles.
Once I am done working out, I actually take a specific post-workout shake that takes the guesswork out of everything, and it combines the needed glucose and protein. Ignition will rapidly replenish glycogen, which equates to muscle energy. At the same time, Phormula-1 is a rapid assimilation protein, which means it gets into the muscles very quickly and begins repairing them fast. Therefore, you’ll recover faster, reduce muscle soreness, muscles will feel fuller longer, and you’ll feel better throughout the day. If you train with intensity, this post-workout shake will help you get the most out of your grueling efforts!
And finally, follow up with a balanced meal within 4 hours. If you are ready to take the next step in your nutrition (or learn more about nutrition), join my VIP Access Group or check out my nutrition programs!