Our nutritional needs change depending on what it is that we wish to do with our bodies. Therefore, pre/post workout nutrition also needs to change depending on the kind of workout you will be performing as well as what you will be doing after the workout.
You should ask yourself the following questions before you decide what and how much to eat before and after working out: –
- How long will I be working out for?
- What intensity will I be working out at?
- What time will I work out at and what will I do after?
If your workout is going to be 20-60 minutes long, you can get through it with little to no food as you will have glycogen reserves from the previous day to fuel most of the workout.
If you are going to work out for more than an hour, you would definitely need to take on some more food, but not so much that it weighs you down.
You may be only working out for 20 minutes, but if it’s at a high intensity, you will burn through your reserves quite quickly.
Endurance workouts that last upwards of 3-4 hours will need special attention to nutrition pre, post and during the workout (Eat 1 item of solid food per hour).
Points of interest
The primary purpose of exercise nutrition to fuel your workout with the correct type and amount of carbohydrates, replenish the carbs you lost so that you can get on with the rest of the day and be ready for tomorrow. These are easy to digest and the most readily available form of energy to the body.
Second in priority to carbs is protein. Since protein is not a particularly great source of energy, it is better suited for consumption post-workout. This macro-nutrient is abundant and therefore a post-workout meal that contains sufficient quantities of wholefood should provide you with plenty of protein to build and repair muscle.
Fat has the lowest priority since it’s what most of us are hoping to get rid of rather than gain. That being said, some amount of far is needed for proper hormonal function and to avoid fat-soluble vitamin deficiencies. Apart from helping fuel a certain percentage of long, endurance related workouts, fat tends to have a negative effect on performance. We would, therefore, recommend limiting your fat intake to your last meal of the day.
You can have the best nutrition in the world but it will all be for naught without proper hydration. To get the most out of your workout, ensure that your body has plenty of water and that you replace all the fluid you lost once you’re done.
With all of that establishing text out of the way, let’s get to the actual recommendations: –
- Sweet fruit like Bananas or dates for short, medium-high intensity workouts
- Complex carbohydrate sources like oatmeal, quinoa for longer workouts. (consume at-least 1-hour prior)
Avoid fat and fiber for it will slow you down and reduce performance.
Also avoid caffeine products (pre-workout supplements, energy drinks) unless you’re getting ready for a special event. Taking caffeine in training can make you over-reach, which will cause you to burn out over subsequent sessions. Since caffeine is a diuretic, it may also dehydrate you.
- Sports drink or fruit smoothie containing a mixture of carbohydrates, amino acids and electrolytes. Best taken within 30 minutes of finishing your workout.
- A meal based around simple carbohydrates such as rice, pasta or potatoes.
- Enough water to have clear urine 1-2 hours’ post-workout.
Avoid fat and too much protein if you need to remain productive for the rest of the day. You can add more of it to your later meals as needed.
Feel free to vary the actual amount of food and timing to suit your needs.
Ergogenic aids, supplementation and natural performance enhancers
Several studies have shown that high-nitrate foods have a demonstrable effect on improving performance. Beet juice and dark chocolate seem to be particularly apt at enabling this effect, although significant effects are only felt following daily consumption.
Anti-oxidant rich foods such as berries can reduce exercise induced oxidative stress, improve oxygen usage within the body and may even reduce muscle soreness. All of this leads to better recovery, better performance and ultimately better results.
Pre and post workout nutrition is just a small part of your overall food consumption and it should be treated as such. For any sort of long-term performance, you need to eat a balanced diet without worrying too much about individual macro-nutrient ratios as those tend to be subjective and change from person to person and activity to activity.
Total calories consumed (so long as it is from whole food) will have a much bigger overall impact on your performance than any one particular type of food and will deliver nutrients in the right proportion.
Supplementation can also be a useful nutrition strategy for raising levels of vitamins like D3 and B12, both of which are important to exercise performance. Macro-nutrient supplementation will generally not be required if you are consuming enough whole food. As mentioned above, avoid caffeine outside of special events and competition.
Our bodies like simple, easy to digest foods before and after periods of intense activity. Pre and post workout nutrition is meant to be complimentary to a balanced diet. Add in some anti-oxidants, proper hydration and plenty of rest and recovery to perform at your best and finish every workout strong.