Good nutrition is crucial for improving your performance and helping you recover faster after a training session. Optimal nutrient intake before exercise increases endurance and energy levels. Accordingly, the intake of right foods after exercise help your body refuel and reduces muscle damage.
Even though there is a wide range of conflicting info on fitness nutrition out there, all nutrition experts agree that your pre-workout and post-workout diet must represent a balance of the best nutrients.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Balanced nutrition means consuming the right micronutrients in the right ratio. Even though this is directly connected to the individual and the type of exercise, there are general rules that apply to everyone.
The timing is also of crucial importance; when you eat the meal is as important as what that meal contains.
Best Pre-Workout Nutrients to Focus On
To get the most of your training, make sure to consume a complete meal comprised of protein, fat, and carbs.
Everyone who is physically active must know how important proteins are for the overall performance. Consumed before a workout session, individually or in combination with carbohydrates, proteins increase muscle protein synthesis. What is muscle protein synthesis or MPS?
MPS refers to removal and reparation of damaged proteins in the muscles and forming new, stronger ones. In other words, MPS is a regeneration of the muscle tissue which begins the moment you start exercising. This is especially important for those seeking to increase muscle mass because, without MPS, the muscles won’t grow.
Simply put, fat is fuel. However, this is only true provided that fat comes from the right sources such as avocados, coconut oil, as well as grass-fed butter and meats. Fat is the first to be consumed by the organism for production of energy. In addition, fat contains high levels of calories, which in terms of exercising translates into body fuel.
To sum up, fat provides you with extra energy and strength, especially during low to medium-intensity exercise.
Carbs contain glycogen which is stored in the muscles and liver. These glycogen reserves are the main source of energy for the muscles, especially during short-term, high-intensity sessions.
However, bearing in mind that the glycogen supplies in the body are limited, during longer training they get used up. In that case, the performance decreases. That is why, in order to renew the glycogen reserves, athletes turn to the so-called ‘carb loading’ i.e. consuming a diet high in carbohydrates.
How Long Before a Workout Should You Eat?
As mentioned before, timing is the key. Ideally, you should consume your complete meal (protein, fat, carbs) 2–3 hours before the training session.
However, this is not always manageable. If there’s no time to get a complete meal 2-3 hours before, you can still eat 40-60 minutes prior to exercise but in that case, your meal should be smaller. In addition, the meal should also be simpler, i.e. easier to digest; otherwise you might experience stomach discomfort during the session. Avoid fats and focus mainly on carbs combined with some protein.
The Best Pre-Workout Recipes
2–3 hours before workout
Less than 2 hours before workout
40-60 minutes before workout
What About Supplements?
Athletes are no stranger to supplements. These products are used to boost strength, energy, and performance, as well as to increase muscle mass. Supplements are especially important but are most effective when used in addition to a healthy, balanced diet.What are the best pre-workout supplements?
Creatine is probably the most commonly used supplement due to its ability to increase muscle mass and reduce fatigue at the same time. However, most experts claim that creatine is much more effective after workout instead of before. The recommended daily dosage is 2-5g (0.07 to 0.17oz.)
Caffeine increases power and strength, improves performance, decreases fatigue, and facilitates fat burning. Besides in coffee, tea, and energy drinks, caffeine also comes in a form of supplements with similar effect. If you decide to take caffeine, do so an hour (or even sooner) before your training session.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that increases the reserves of carnosine in the muscles by boosting muscles’ endurance and capacity. It has especially effective for short-term, high-intensity training. It is recommended to consume 0.5 to 1g (0.03oz.) before a workout.
BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) increase MPA and decrease muscle damage. The recommended daily dosage is 5g (0.17oz.), one hour before the training.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Good hydration is the last important element needed to improve your performance. The ideal amount of fluid is 15-20 oz. in a period of four hours before a workout. If there’s not enough time, you should try to consume at least 10 oz. half an hour before the training session. The perfect combination is water with sodium, a combination that provides ideal fluid balance in the body.
Best Post-Workout Nutrition
Consuming the right nutrients after a workout is just as important as what you had eaten before in order to maximize the benefits of the workout. When choosing the best foods to eat post-workout, bear in mind that they should be easily digestible in order to facilitate their absorption in the body.
During a workout, the bodies use up the glycogen reserves and the proteins are broken down.
Consuming the right nutrients after a training session (proteins and carbs) helps restore the glycogen reserves and reduces protein breakdown, increasing muscle growth and recovery at the same time.
Best Pre-Workout Nutrients to Focus On
Consuming proteins after a workout provides the necessary amino acids that help rebuild the broken down muscle proteins and build new muscle tissues. The recommended post-workout protein amount is 20-40g (0.70 to 1.40 oz. depending on body weight), immediately after the session.
The best protein-rich foods to consume after a training are protein powder (both animal-based and plant-based), protein bars, meat (chicken and fish, especially oily fish like tuna or salmon), dairy (cottage cheese, Greek yogurt), and eggs.
Carbs help restore the used up glycogen in the muscles. They are especially important for people who exercise on a more regular basis and for those that practice endurance sports like cycling, skiing, and swimming. These sports cause the body to spend more glycogen than weight training (bodybuilding).
When carbs are taken in combination with protein, they also stimulate the production of insulin. This hormone regulates the metabolism of proteins, carbs, and fats by promoting the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream and converting it into glycogen.
The ideal protein-carb ratio is 1:3, whereas the recommended post-workout carb intake is 0.5–0.7 g per pound of body weight, half an hour after workout.
Not all carbs are created equal. What you are looking for are complex carbs which can be found in vegetables like leafy greens, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, fruits (especially banana, berries, and pineapple), rice and rice cakes, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, and unsweetened chocolate milk.
Despite popular belief, even though fats slow down the absorption of nutrients, they do have positive effects after a workout. Fats promote muscle growth and do not affect the glycogen synthesis in the muscles. However, fats are not as important as proteins and carbs in the post-workout period and their amount should be limited.
Focus on good, natural fats like those found in avocados, dried fruits, nuts and nut butter.
How Long After a Workout Should You Eat?
Since the body’s ability to rebuild protein and glycogen is higher after a training session, it is best to eat as soon as possible, i.e. within 40-45 minutes after a workout. After this timeframe, the results are decreased by 50%.
The good news is that the effects of what you eat before exercising extend to after you finish the session. This means that even if you are unable to eat a complete meal within 45 minutes after a training, the benefits of your pre-workout meal still apply
Drinking large amounts of water before, during and after the workout is crucial. During exercise, the body loses water and electrolytes through sweat so, recovering them will affect your performance and recovery. Ideally, you should restore fluid balance within 12 hours after a training session.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
The Best Post-Workout Recipes
Here are a few examples of quick and simple recipes to make after your training session:
I believe that food should not only taste good, but make you feel good as well and that is why I am so interested in exploring ingredients, preparing meals, and finding ways to make the whole cooking experience fun and exciting! Being a blogger for MyGreatRecipes unites my two passions – food and writing, and I am enjoying every second of it!