There are a lot of myths and misinformation floating around about what and how you should eat before and after workouts, but in my opinion, science wins. According to this scientific study, a pre-workout meal that includes carbs will help to fuel your body for maximum effect, and a post-workout meal will serve to replenish depleted glycogen stores, shortening recovery time (aka maximizing your workout to its full potential). Planning your diet in this way is called “nutrient timing,” and it’s studied pretty frequently, both in the medical community and among fitness experts.
So, let’s say you want to put this information to use in your own nutrition plan. Where do you start?
Here’s a simple and effective breakdown to help get you started…
Pre-Workout Nutrition Strategy
Carbs aren’t bad. They’ve just gotten a bad rep over the years. The truth is, you need carbs for energy. Once digested, your body breaks them down into glucose to fuel the muscles and give you a much-needed energy boost before you sweat.
The trick is to get in the right kinds of carbs – complex carbs that your body won’t deplete too quickly, like whole grains. Some examples of some great pre-workout carbs are oatmeal, yogurt (which also contains protein), rice cakes or fruit.
Protein is the muscle-builder, so it’s great to have a little added protein before lifting weights to build and repair damaged muscle tissue. But even if you’re not lifting weights, eating a little protein before any performance activity is a good idea to speed recovery time from intense training and strengthen your muscles maximum fat-burning.
Don’t forget how important it is to hydrate! While drinking a gallon of water ten minutes before a marathon might not be the wisest choice, chugging a few ounces ahead of time along with well-timed sips while you’re moving will keep your body hydrated and in peak performance.
Pre-Workout Snack Suggestions:
1 rice cake with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 an apple with 1/4 cup almonds
protein shake with 1/2 banana
1 cup Greek Yogurt with 1/2 cup strawberry slices
1/2 cup oatmeal with 1-2 tablespoons all-fruit jam
Post-Workout Nutrition Strategy
The main thing to remember with your post-workout plan is to eat as soon as you can afterward, for a couple of reasons. The main reason is because it will help to quickly replenish the glycogen stores you depleted while exercising. When you exercise, especially during resistance training, you create tiny tears in your muscles, and the glycogen is the key component in rebuilding the tissue. The second reason is that eating soon after your workout will help curb the hunger that’s sure to hit within the next couple of hours.
While eating something immediately after your workout is crucial, it doesn’t have to be just a snack. A lot of people like to plan their workouts right before a meal so that they are getting their post-workout nutrition without adding extra calories to their diet. If you decide to go this route, just remember to include plenty of calories for your body weight and activity level.
Protein is almost more important after you exercise than it is before, because of it’s muscle-building and recovery power, not to mention, it can give you a little energy boost when you feel like you might have exhausted your supply.
If you’re having a snack, 2-3 ounces of protein is plenty, but if you’re having a post-workout meal, be sure to properly calculate your protein portion to fit into your meal plan. If you’re not sure how much protein you should be eating, BodyBuilding.com has a great tool for calculating protein needs according to body weight and activity levels.
And there it is again. You simply can’t get away from giving your body all the liquid it needs to stay hydrated and functioning properly. If you haven’t been sipping water throughout your workout, drink a few ounces immediately after. Chugging a large quantity after an intense cardio session could make you nauseous, so sip slowly if you feel winded. I like keeping my water in this bottle since it keeps my water chilled for 24 hours!
Post-Workout Snack Suggestions:
2 boiled eggs
8 ounces milk
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 8-ounce protein shake
The key to any healthy lifestyle is getting the proper amount of each nutrient your body needs, and the harder you work out, the more it uses. Nutrient timing is simply a way to help your body perform at its best and get the results you want to see. Do your research, find a meal plan that works for you and get to work! Your summer body will thank you!