First, we’ll lay out the scientific facts, then provide you with some food ideas that you can implement to enhance your body and workout performance.
It is vital for you to understand how your body is affected by any physical activity when choosing the right foods before and after you exercise. During the exercising session, your muscles use glycogen stores for fuel, which leads to proteins in your muscles to break down and become damaged. So, if you do not consume the right foods prior to and after a workout, your muscles won’t have much to thank you for and won’t do the work we need them to do.
Basic Science & Benefits Behind Carbs, Proteins, and Fats:
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provide 100% of your diet’s energy. All three are digested in the intestine, where they are broken down into their basic units:
The body uses these basic units to build substances it needs for growth, maintenance, and activity.
The timing of your meals is also a vital aspect of any pre-exercise nutrition.
Main goal here is to maximize the results of your training/workout. In order to do that, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat at least 2–3 hours before you exercise. However, we do understand that life happens and our day-to-day activities vary. During times when you may not be able to get in a full meal 2–3 hours before working out, you can still have a good meal however, it should be lighter. Rule of thumb, the sooner you eat before your workout, the lighter and simpler the meal should be. For example, if you have about 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, you should then choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein, like a yogurt or protein bar. This will help prevent any stomach discomfort from arising during exercise.
Pre-Workout meal ideas vary depending on time
The type and amount of food to eat depends on the type, duration, and intensity of the workout. As mentioned above, try to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise. If you eat fats with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least 3 hours before your workout.
Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals courtesy healthline.com:
If Your Workout Starts Within 2–3 Hours or More
Sandwich on whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad
Egg omelet and whole-grain toast topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit
Lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables
Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries
Whole-grain cereal and milk
A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds
Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread
If Your Workout Starts Within an Hour or Less
Greek yogurt and fruit
Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients
A piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or apple
Although these are just some examples, don’t let this list limit you. Everyone’s body and lifestyle are different, so try and experiment with different timings and nutrient compositions that work right for you.
Now, let’s dive into Post-Workout nutrition!
You just had one of the greatest workouts, which included a meal 3 hours before you started. Currently, your body is in recovery mode. So now what?
Well, it’s time to prepare your post-workout meal to thank your body for that training session.
Your Carb and Protein Intake
Your body's glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps refill them. A post-workout meal with both protein and carbs will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis.
Limit Fat Intake Post-workout
Although there are benefits to including healthy fats in your meal, fats may slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, so it’s always good to limit the fat intake after your training.
Timing is Important
Similarly to your pre-workout meal, many experts recommend eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes, because your body's ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is strengthened after you exercise. For this reason, it's recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein right after exercising.
Foods to Eat After Workout
The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout.
The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods (www.healthline.com). Combinations of these foods listed below can create great meals that provide you with all the nutrients post-workout:
Our personal favorite is grilled chicken, broccoli, and rice.
Finally, after everything, remember that replenishing lost water and electrolytes can complete the picture and help you maximize the benefits of your workout. This step is one of the simplest and most effective steps yet.