One of the most common questions asked about workout nutrition is “What should I eat before and after a workout?”
Sometimes the answer depends more on the athlete and the specific activity, but there are some common truths that apply for pre- and post-workout nutrition, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a seasoned veteran.
Pre-Workout – Don’t Skip the Carbs!
Carbohydrates are fuel for your muscles. And, the harder your muscles work, the more carbs you need to keep going.
So you may be asking — how soon before a workout should I eat? It depends.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because while your muscles are trying to do their “thing,” your stomach is trying to simultaneously digest the food in your stomach. These competing demands are a challenge for optimal performance. And, even more of a factor, eating too close to a workout may cause you to experience some GI discomfort while you train or play.
Ideally, you should fuel your body about 1 to 3 hours pre-workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. Experiment and see what time frame works best for your body. If you’re a competitive athlete, this is something you need to explore during your training days and not during game day.
Here are some suggestions for pre-workout fuel:
- A peanut butter and banana or PBJ sandwich
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk or almond milk, and fruit (add slivered almonds on top)
- Apple and peanut or almond butter
- Handful of nuts and raisins (two parts raisins: one part nuts)
Notice that each of these suggestions include some protein as well as carbs. Carbs are the fuel. Protein is what rebuilds and repairs to make the right amino acids available for your muscles. Getting protein and carbs into your system is even more vital post workout.
Post Workout – Protein a Must!
Your body uses stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout or game, but after that workout, you need to replenish the nutrients lost. What to do?
As soon as possible post workout, get carbs and protein immediately into your body. This gives your muscles the ability to replenish the glycogen they just lost through training and helps your tired muscles rebuild and repair with the available protein and amino acids. Try to eat within 30 minutes of completing an intense workout. If you wait too long, your progress will be lost because the muscles will begin to catabolize (break down its own tissue to release amino acids).
Post-workout meals include:
- Post-workout recovery smoothie
- Turkey on a whole-grain wrap with veggies
- Greek yogurt with berries
The above offer carbs and protein, which are needed for recovery. Make sure to re-hydrate as well.
Take Home Points about Workout Nutrition
- Your body needs carbs (glycogen) to fuel your working muscles.
- Protein helps build and repair your worked muscles.
- Get a combination of the protein and carbs into your body 1 to 3 hours pre-workout and within approximately 30 minutes post-workout.
- Never try anything new on race or game day — it’s always best to experiment during training to learn what works best for your body
Source: Eat Right, Core Fit Studio