Proper nutrition is vital to workout safely, maximize and sustain performance, and recover. Getting your nutrition plan right will help you optimize each training session and ultimately help you to reach your fitness goals. Knowing what to eat, and when to eat, before and after a workout can be a bit confusing and is a problem many people struggle with at the beginning.
While workout nutrition will completely depend on the type of workouts you are doing and your goals, the basic principles remain the same.
Ideally, you should fuel your body 1–3 hours before your workout. A more substantial meal should be consumed 2–3 hours pre-workout, while a smaller snack can be consumed closer to the session. Food should contain both protein and carbs. Carbohydrates are the fuel, while protein rebuilds and repairs. If your goal is weight loss, your pre-workout fuel will contain less carbs and more protein and a smaller portion size. If your goal is to gain muscle, have a bigger portion of carbohydrates and protein. Make sure you are hydrated, consume 2–3 cups of water before a workout.
Examples of pre-workout foods:
· Greek yoghurt
· Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
· Apple with peanut butter
· Rice cakes with almond butter
· Oatmeal with low-fat milk and fruit
· Pasta with sauce
· Nuts and raisins
· Honey sandwich
Your pre-workout food(s) should be easily digestible and that won’t upset your stomach. Experiment with the food timing before workouts and timing of workouts to discover what works best for your body.
It is important to continue to hydrate during a workout. Consume at a ½–1 cup of water every 15–20 minutes while exercising. For longer and/or more intense workouts you may need to add electrolyte powder or tablets to your water to replenish sodium and other minerals that you are sweating out. Electrolytes can also be added to water pre and post-workouts if needed for energy and recovery. While sports drinks contain electrolytes and can be effective in rehydration, it is often at the expense of added sugar and high calories. Instead, electrolyte powder or tablets are very low in added sugar and calories. If you are exercising for more than an hour or several hours, you may need additional nutrients during your workout. If this is the case, consume 50–100 calories every half an hour of easily digestible carbohydrates (like low-fiber fruits, snack bars with carbohydrates, or drinks with carbohydrates).
We need to replenish shortly after a workout. Post-workout nutrition should therefore focus on refilling energy storages and provide enough protein to prevent muscle protein breakdown and stimulate muscle growth. A post-workout meal or snack is always recommended, as soon as possible, try to eat high quality protein and carbs ideally 30–60 minutes after a workout. To get rehydrated following a workout consume at least 2–3 cups of water.
Examples of post-workout foods:
· Chocolate milk
· Egg and whole-wheat toast
· Grilled chicken, brown rice, and roasted veggies
· Tuna salad sandwich on wholegrain bread
· Spinach and egg white omelet
· Hummus and pita bread
· Yoghurt and berries
· Salmon and sweet potato
· Oatmeal, whey protein, banana, and almonds
· Cottage cheese and fruits
· Protein rich green smoothie
Your post workout foods should include quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to replenish depleted nutrients, and promote muscle maintenance, growth, and recovery.
- Meals 2–3 hours prior
- Snacks 0–90 minutes prior
- Mixture of protein and carbs
- Water 2–3 cups prior
- Water ½–1 cup every 15–20 min
- Over 1 hour to several hours consume 50–100 calories of digestible carbohydrates
- Refuel as soon as possible, ideally within 30–60 minutes, no more than 2 hours after a workout.
- Focus on protein and carbs.
- Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition and the impact it has on your fitness goals.
- Everyone is different and therefore have different needs when it comes to nutrition.
- Find out what works best for you, your body, and your goals.
Hydrate! Pre/during/post-workout — don’t forget to hydrate throughout and use electrolytes in water for longer and/or more intense workouts.