What you eat not only helps you to perform better, but also helps your body to recover faster.
But what are you supposed to eat?
Let’s take it back to the basics of macro nutrition. We know that our three main nutrient groups are carbs, protein, and fat. It is how we optimize these nutrients before our workout that makes pre- and post-workout nutrition important.
Our muscles are fueled by the glucose in carbs. But where does glucose go and how is it used? Glycogen processes and stores glucose in the liver and in the muscles. For short, high-intensity workouts, your body will use the stored glucose for fuel. For longer exercises, it can vary on intensity. As your body diminishes stored glucose, that’s when intensity and output is compromised. In fact, studies have shown that simple carbs can help increase glycogen levels during workouts (so yes, it’s ok to eat some gummies between sets to stabilize your blood sugars).
Protein has a proven anabolic response when taken before workouts. Studies have shown that an average of 20g of whey before exercise can help muscle growth, muscle recovery, increased strength, and better muscle performance. Overall performance has shown to increase when taking protein before exercise.
The body digests fats more slowly than carbohydrates, therefore medical professionals advise not to eat high fat meals before exercise. The body may not be able to break down and absorb fats before the start of your workout. Eating a meal that focuses more on protein and carbohydrates will be more beneficial to your performance; however, it is important to incorporate healthful fats elsewhere in your diet.
Optimize your meal:
We all have different macro goals that we try to hit every day. Now, how do we optimize meals to fit around your workout? Because we want the most fuel for training and recovery, we want to be able to eat most of our daily carbs before and after exercise.
Rule of thumb is to eat .25-.4g of carbs per pound body weight before training. (Example: John Doe weighs 180lbs and decides to eat .35g of carbs before his workout. 180x.35= 63g of carbs.) The lighter the workout, the lower the amount should be (.25g). The more intense the workout, the higher the amount should be (.4g).
For after training, you want to consume about .5-.7g of carbs per pound of body weight. (Example: John Doe weighs 180lbs and decides to eat .6g of carbs after workout. 180x.6= 108g of carbs.) The lighter the workout, the lower the amount should be (.5g). The more intense the workout, the higher the amount should be (.7g).
You can figure out how many carbs are left throughout the day by subtracting these two amounts from your total carbs. So, if John Doe had 300 carbs for the day and ate five meals per day, then he can evenly split the difference between his other three meals, which would be 43g of carbs for each of the three meals.
Now that you have an idea of how much carbs to eat, let’s talk about your protein and fat intake. Generally, protein can be spread out evenly throughout the day. If your daily protein intake is 150g and you have five meals per day, then you can split that evenly at 30g per meal. A steady flow of protein throughout the day like this allows your muscles to recover quickly. Another option is to increase your protein intake after your workout by 10g.
When it comes to fats, many choose to eat 0-5g before and after a workout. If you eat 5 meals per day, it’s best to eat most of your fats during the meals that are furthest from your workout.
When do I eat?
This is one of the only times we focus on when we eat. We want to get the most out of our workout, so focusing on the right nutrition before the workout is important. Eating around 1-2 hours prior to exercise will give time for your body to absorb all of the energy.
For post-workout nutrition, eating 1-4 hours after exercise recommended. This optimizes muscle recovery and stabilizes your blood sugar levels.