What to Eat Before and After A Workout
Portion size and timing of meals key to maximizing fitness goals:
Pre and Post Workout Nutrition Timing
Similar to exercise regimens, I believe eating schedules should be kept simple. This doesn’t mean that nutrition cannot be tailored to meet varying fitness and health goals. For instance, someone training for the Mr. Universe competition is going to have a strikingly different diet plan than someone trying to complete a Death Valley super marathon.
That being said, all human bodies react to the presence of food in similar ways. One of the most popular questions I receive has to do with food timing and portions. More specifically, how should a person construct their eating schedule to fit best with workouts?
First, there are basic things to understand about nutrients, and how the human body uses them to sustain athletic activity.
– The body can utilize all macronutrients and healthy sugars as fuel.
– The fine line between fat loss and muscle retention is drawn through meal timing and portions.
– Starvation in any form stops any fitness goal. Eating too much is far easier to counter than eating too little.
– The body is like a fire. Think of food as kindling that starts and sustains it until it grows to handle more. If you drop a log on a small flame, it will be snuffed. Always feed the fire.
Now, back to the subject of food and pre and post workout nutrition timing. No matter what fitness goals a person has, they should eat between five and seven balanced meals each day. The entire scope of customized meal plans is too vast to cover here, but with personal training it can be outlined.
How to measure your meal size
Each of these meals should be about the size of the person’s closed fist. Yes, it’s that simple. Since each person has a different size of hand, this can help with caloric need differences per body type.
When to eat
A pre-workout meal should be consumed no sooner than one hour before a workout. This is enough time to upload nutrients, but not enough time to begin being stored in tissues. Again, pre and post workout nutrition timing is very important. If there is too much food in the upper parts of the digestive tract before a workout, blood flow will be turned inward, and sluggishness will be the result. If a person has no fuel from food before a workout, common results can be lightheadedness and nausea. Be aware that drinking water throughout the day helps the body regulate food fuel use. Also, avoid carbonated drinks and heavy dairy products before a workout. These tend to negatively alter digestive efficiency.
Adding an extra energy boost
Personally, I enjoy getting a “pump” during each workout. Full muscle pumps are achieved by proper amounts of water, sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium in the bloodstream. About 1.5 hours before my workout I like to eat portions of deep greens like kale, medium sugars like yams, and salty meat like tuna. 10 minutes before my workout I drink one strong cup of instant coffee, or 2-3 grams of L-Arginine. Throughout my workout, I sip BCAA with about 32 oz. of water.
Don’t forget to refuel after
Timing food after a workout is far more important than before a workout. When a body is tired, used, and athletically abused, it begins looking for immediate sources of nutrients for refueling. If it does not receive proper nutrition, it will look to lean tissue for fuel. This is extremely counterproductive for anyone with fitness goals.
There is a 30-45 minute window between the time a body cools down post-workout, and the time it starts to eat lean tissue. During this time, try to consume a small meal, or meal replacement supplement that has at least 20 grams of protein, and natural sugars. My favorite post-workout meal is two scoops of vanilla protein powder, mixed with a large scoop of Lemon Lime Gatorade powder.
Keep your post-workout meal small, but powerful. Remember, if you are timing things correctly, you will be eating another meal in about 3 hours.
– By Dale Parducci, an exclusive personal trainer, model, and fitness competitor based in North Bergen, NJ. Fitness and nutrition have been his passions for most of his life. He has earned a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable personal fitness consultants in New England.