Clients are always asking me what they should be eating pre and post workout. What you eat before and after your workouts is more important than most people realize. Eating right before your workout will help give you the energy to power through your workout, and eating right after the workout aids in faster muscle recovery. Nutrient timing is also very important for maximizing workout results.
Ideally, you will have your small snack about 30 minutes to 2 hours before your workout. The bigger the meal, the longer I recommend waiting. You don’t want a heavy stomach while you’re working out. A high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal that has a moderate amount of protein is easy to digest and will help you maintain your blood sugar. Examples of a great pre-workout meal include oatmeal with a small scoop or protein powder, whole-grain toast with a tablespoon of almond butter; an egg and a piece of fruit, Greek yogurt, or a turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread (hold the mayo).
When you are strength training and building muscle you need a higher supply of protein for tissue repair. While on the other hand if you are a cardio junkie, you will need more carbs for energy supply when powering through a tough cardio session.
Determining the perfect pre-workout meal for you takes trial and error. For me personally, I like a 200 calorie snack about 30 minutes before I workout. If you feel nauseas or sluggish during a workout, give yourself a little more time after the meal or cut back on the calories before the workout.
Also, don’t forget to hydrate. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should drink 2 to 3 cups of water before your workout and about 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Sports drinks are not necessary unless you are exercising for more than an hour at a time, then they may be a good idea to replace electrolytes lost during sweating.
After your workout there is a time period called the “recovery period.” This is the prime time where protein is used to build lean muscles instead of being stored as fat, so you will want to take advantage of this time. This is a 2 hour window, post-workout, that you should use to refuel your body of its lost nutrients. However, what most people should actually aim for is the “golden window,” the 30 minute immediately following your workout. For optimal results, it’s even better to try to refuel within this time period in order for your body to have the best chance for optimal recovery and results.
Carbohydrates will help replenish your energy, and protein will help rebuild muscle that has been broken down during your workout. Protein shakes are always a good and easy choice, but whole food is always the best choice. Consider chicken and brown rice or fish and a sweet potato. Don’t forget the veggies!
Again, don’t forget to hydrate, with 2 to 3 cups of water post-workout.
Don’t use your post-workout meal as a “hall pass” to eat or drink whatever you want. What you put into your body is what you get out of it. Always, remember, you cannot outwork a BAD diet!