Devising a plan for your pre- and post-workout meals is more complex than you think. We all have different goals and body compositions, and we need to fuel up accordingly.
What you eat before a workout is the key to maximizing your overall performance during the workout itself. On the other hand, what you eat after your workout is crucial for optimizing recovery, ensuring you provide your body with what it needs to recover, adapting and helping you with your personal gains.
The ideal pre- and post-training eating plan depends upon your goals and individual needs. Eat for your own specific goals. Your progress will be be measured by the total amount of calories, protein, carbs, fats and micronutrients you eat over the course of a day, not what you eat directly before or after your workouts.
Your pre- and post-workout meals should contain lean protein, the building blocks of muscle, followed by carbohydrates and healthy fats for fuel.
Let's break down meals into two categories: full meal and snack.
Full meals should be consumed at least three to four hours prior to exercise and should include: complex carbs like oats, vegetables, sweet potato, brown rice, and quinoa; lean protein like fish, eggs, chicken or turkey; and healthy fats, like avocado, olive oil and peanut butter.
For example, try a grilled chicken and avocado veggie wrap, oatmeal with berries and eggs or grilled salmon with sweet potatoes and asparagus.
Small snacks should be eaten an hour prior to exercise and should include: simple carbs like banana, pineapple, berries and honey; lean protein like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt protein shakes; and healthy fats like almond butter and pistachios.
For example, try plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey, cottage cheese with pineapple, a protein shake with a spoonful of almond butter or a handful of pistachios.
After exercise, your post workout meal plays an important role by supplying your body with what it needs to repair, recover, and adapt to the stress you put it through during your workout.
Your post workout meal should be ingested within the first two hours of your workout, the earlier, the better. It should include: lean protein, to build and repair; and simple carbs to help replenish depleted glycogen levels.
The ideal choice is up to you, whether you want something quick and efficient, like a shake, or a full plate of food after training . Research has shown that there's no real evidence that protein powders, especially the fast-digesting kind, are any better for us than whole food protein after training,
In a nutshell, pre- and post-workout meals should contain a combination of lean, high-quality protein, healthy carbohydrates, healthy fats and vegetables. The total amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients consumed over the course of the day is far more important to weight loss, lean muscle mass and performance enhancement than timing specific strategies.
All calories are not equal. Stay away from refined, highly-processed foods, and include a variety of whole foods in your diet. That will help you meet your bodies demands, and give you optimal fuel to help you reach your goals.