We get this question very often! The answer depends on the nature of both your workout and your goals. Are you trying to lose body fat? Or are you concentrating on building lean muscle mass? The intensity, duration and type of workout matters too.
That being said, there are common points that apply across the board when it comes to workouts and nutrition:
Don’t Skip the Carbs:
Your body uses carbohydrates as an energy source. Think of carbs as the fuel for your “engine” (your muscles). The harder your engine is working, the more carbs you need. If you feel low on energy during a workout, it could be due to a low supply of stored energy! This is why it is important to have carbohydrate based pre-workout foods.
After a workout, your carb storage needs to be replenished to provide your body with energy for the rest of the day and (along with protein) to help the muscle rebuilding and repair process.
When to eat before a workout depends on how you tolerate food and your rate of digestion. As a general rule, avoid eating immediately before a workout. If you are trying to digest food in your stomach and challenging your muscles with a workout at the same time, your performance will be compromised and you may experience G.I. discomfort.
Ideally, you should fuel up 1-3 hours pre-workout. It all depends on how your body works, so experiment to see what time frame suits you best.
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk and berries
- Apples and almond butter
- Dates and walnuts
- Greek yogurt and berries
You’ll notice that these food options include protein as well as carbohydrates. The protein will help in the repair process after a workout (in addition to post workout protein).
If you have less than an hour before a workout and didn’t have time to eat, at least grab a banana!
Your body just used your stored energy (glycogen) in your muscles to power through your workout. You need to restore the lost nutrients and provide your muscle cells with amino-acid building blocks (protein) to rebuild and repair your muscle cells.
As soon as possible, eat a snack composed of carbs and protein, and rehydrate with water.
Ideally, within 15-20 minutes following a workout, you will consume a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein in liquid form, such as a smoothie. A few hours later, you can eat a regular, balanced meal to further help the recovery process.
- Smoothie made with low fat milk, yogurt or protein powder, mixed with fruit
- Turkey and veggies on 100% whole wheat bread
- Greek Yogurt and berries
- Tuna and tomatoes on 100% whole grain crackers
How much to eat depends on your goals and your body. If you are trying to lose weight, carefully plan your pre- and post-workout snacks within your calorie budget. If you are trying to gain muscle mass, use your pre- and post-workout snacks as opportunities to add nutrient dense calories to your diet.