Most of us are aware of the importance of proper nutrition in supporting a healthy lifestyle and the achievement of our fitness goals. One common area of confusion, however, is what to eat before and after a workout. As with many health topics, there is a lot of confusing and even conflicting information on this subject.
The importance of eating before a workout may be the more controversial topic of the two within the fitness community. Many sources have spoken about the importance of having a snack or meal before exercising, so that your body has the necessary energy reserves to draw upon. Intermittent fasting is a recent popular trend, however, whose adherents exercise in a fasted state (i.e. empty stomach) and appear to experience no ill effects on their performance. Some of these athletes are even fasting for great lengths of time and still perform remarkable physical feats. It will be difficult to know, however, whether they are unique and gifted or whether their approach would apply to the general population.
Eating after a workout appears to be more straight-forward, in that most sources confirm the importance of ingesting some combination of protein and carbohydrates after exercise (ideally within an hour) to help the body recover and begin the process of repairing muscle tissue and replenishing your muscles' glycogen (fuel) stores. The one hour window post-exercise is a common piece of guidance, as evidence shows the body is most able to make use of nutrients within this key metabolic timeframe. That's not to say that what you eat outside of the one hour period is wasted, but if you have access to food (or at least a snack), then you should try to consume it shortly after you workout.
Since there is no one definitive answer on pre and post workout nutrition, we recommend that you experiment and determine what works best for you, individually. If we are exercising in the evening, then we try to have a snack beforehand (with some protein and carbs), which seems to help our energy levels during the workout. If we are working out first thing in the morning (i.e. immediately after waking), then we will often forgo eating before exercise (due to time constraints). When we have eaten a big meal, we like to wait at least a couple of hours before exercising, to let the food digest and to ensure sufficient blood-flow to our muscles (as opposed to our digestive system). Some people find that exercising on a full stomach makes them nauseous. Thus, you need to figure out what works for you and your body. Everyone is different. Try these various approaches and make note of how you feel and how you perform in your workouts. Over time, you should be able to determine how you function and feel best with regards to pre workout nutrition.
After our workouts, we make sure to eat a decent-sized snack or meal, within the 1-hour timeframe. Our post-workout food will always include some mix of carbs, protein and fat. We try to eat a balanced diet and consume a variety of sources of natural, lean protein. We will occasionally use a substitute (e.g. protein shake or bar) if pressed for time. By ensuring that we have a balanced diet with sufficient protein, we help ensure that our bodies can swiftly recover from our weight-lifting workouts. This, combined with other recovery tricks like getting sufficient sleep, help us maintain and improve our health and fitness.
Let us know what you think about pre and post workout nutrition. What strategies do you use? What works for you?
- Tannys & Alex