If you're looking to maximize your athletic performance in the gym, you need to focus on what you eat around your workouts. Nutrition and a good fitness plan go hand in hand, so your workouts will only be as effective as your daily nutrition to fuel it.
The quality of your pre workout and post workout meals have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your training sessions. They enable you in achieving your goals and shaping your results. Let's dig a little deeper into the purpose of pre-workout and post-workout meals, meal timing, and what you should eat to achieve the best possible results.
Pre-Workout Meal - It’s Purpose
The consumption of pre-workout meals is an integral part of any fitness regimen. Eat the right food before you train to help fuel your workouts, accelerate results, and move you closer to your health and fitness goals. It has been shown that eating a pre-workout meal can help you perform better and recover faster. When you workout regularly, it is critical to fuel your body with nutritious food because working out consumes a significant amount of energy. A pre-workout meal will help you stay focused and energized during and after your workout, as well as aid in the development and maintenance of muscle mass and the promotion of recovery.
What To Eat?
Focusing on your macronutrient (also known as "macro") intake will help you get the most out of your workouts and recovery time. Consuming carbohydrates and protein in your pre-workout meals will help you achieve this goal.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your body. When you consume carbohydrates before a workout, you stimulate the release of insulin, which allows your body to use carbohydrates as fuel for your workout. When you perform high-intensity training, your body relies on fast-absorbing carbohydrates to fuel the fast-twitch muscle fibres in your legs and arms. Therefore, it can be much more challenging to perform these exercises if you do not consume enough carbohydrates.
Your body requires protein for the construction, maintenance, and regulation of cells. Meat, legumes, fish, and seafood are high in protein, necessary for muscle synthesis, maintenance, and repair and support your overall training efforts.
The best results for muscle growth and repair will be obtained by consuming a pre-workout meal containing protein and complex carbohydrates.
Some examples of pre-workout meals that contain a healthy balance of carbohydrates and protein include:
- Oatmeal (or other whole-grain cereal) with milk/curd and fruit
- Apple with nut butter (peanut, almond, etc.)
- Multigrain bread with peanut butter and honey
- Greek yoghurt (or another high-protein yoghurt) with any fruit
- Peanut butter and banana sandwich
- Whey Protein smoothie with any fruit
Timing of Your Pre-Workout Meal
The timing of your pre-workout meal can impact how you feel during and after your workout session. This can also affect your ability to train at your maximum capacity.
You should avoid anything too heavy before or after a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session or a workout that includes rapid movements — a light protein-filled snack or a healthy smoothie are both excellent options. Allow at least 30-45 minutes between consuming a pre-workout meal and your workout.
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Post Workout Meal - It’s Purpose
Post-workout nutrition is more complex. Your post-workout needs to provide all the nutrients required to repair, replenish, recover, and adapt to the training stimulus provided by your workout. More specifically, post-workout nutrition helps reduce the amount of muscle damage and muscle protein breakdown that occurs as a result of the workout you performed. It will also aid in the increase of muscle protein synthesis, which will help in the repair of damaged muscle tissues and the development of new muscle. Your post-workout meal also aids in replenishing the glycogen stores in your muscles that get depleted during your training session.
What To Eat?
Each macronutrient — protein, carbs, and fat — is involved in your body's post-workout recovery process. That's why it's crucial to have the right mix. Many people prefer to take this nutrition as a recovery drink or shake for quickness, convenience, and optimal carb/protein balance. Often appetite is suppressed following a challenging workout, making liquid nutrition the more appealing option.
Others prefer having a ‘real meal’, pairing a protein with a carbohydrate, such as rice. And a few split the difference by having a protein shake immediately post-workout, then rounding things out later with some additional carbs.
Some examples of post-workout meals that contain a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats include:
- Eggs and multigrain/brown bread toast
- Greek yoghurt and fruit
- Chicken with sweet potato
- Chicken, brown rice, and veggies
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
- Protein shake and banana
Timing of Your Post Workout Meal
As soon as possible—within the first 60 minutes after your workout, or even better, within the first 30 minutes. After your workout, the body is primed to receive vital nutrients and put them to work. Your body exhausts all reserves during the workout, and it will resort to breaking down muscle to fuel itself. Therefore, to save your hard-earned muscles from breaking down, try to eat in a window of 60 minutes after a workout.
After your workout, your body tends to be in the breaking down and recovery phase. Adding a good multivitamin like Maximult from Epicvita could help recover and repair tissues and help you grow. It will also help you boost your testosterone levels and build your immunity.
The Bottom Line
Diet and training always go hand in hand, so you need to make sure that you complement your hard work at the gym by having a proper and nutritious diet. What you eat around your workouts optimize your results and helps you achieve your goals much faster.
Ormsbee, M., Bach, C., & Baur, D. (2014). Pre-Exercise Nutrition: The Role of Macronutrients, Modified Starches and Supplements on Metabolism and Endurance Performance. Nutrients, 6(5), 1782–1808. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6051782
Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A., Wilborn, C., Urbina, S. L., Hayward, S. E., & Krieger, J. (2017). Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations. PeerJ, 5, e2825. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2825
Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-5