Pre & Post Training Nutrition
A question we get a lot is ‘ What should I eat before and after training?’. With most things in sport and exercise, there isn’t a one size fits all. Below, we will attempt to give a basic guide to all things pre and post workout nutrition. However if you are an athlete/ have a specific goal, your nutrition needs will be different.
Our main aim for nutrition around the workout is to maximise performance in the workout and then maximise recovery after. As with all nutrition, our focus should be on:
Food Quality: Eating minimally processed proteins, veggies, carbs, and fats
Portion Size: Ensuring portion size is the right size and amount for you.
Eating Mindfully: Eating slowly and until satisfied.
Our aims for pre workout nutrition is to:
Preserve Muscle Mass
Eating protein before exercise can:
Can help maintain and increase muscle size – important for anyone regardless of their goals
Can reduce muscle damage – the less damage to the muscle the faster you recover
Its worth noting that speed of digestion does not matter, so no need to necessarily have a protein shake before workout. Pick whatever is convenient for you!
Eating carbs before a workout:
Fuels your training – Whether your session is long or short carbs will help fuel the body for your session.
Preserves Muscle/ Liver Glycogen – This tells the body you are well fed, and helps retention of muscle.
Stimulates Insulin release – when combined with protein, helps protein synthesis (building muscle).
Pre Workout Food Ideas:
2-3 Hours before:
A Palm sized sized portion of lean protein (chick/beef/tofu etc)
1 Fists sized portions of Veg
1 Thumb sized portion of fat (nuts etc)
1 Cup of Carb source (rice, potato, pasta)
Double this for a male sized portion.
It’s Important to note, this will vary depending on your goals, for example a long distance runner would need more carbs.
1 Hour before:
The goal here is to find something easily digestible. Give this a go:
1 Scoop of protein
1 fist of veggies
1-2 Handfuls of Carbs
1 Thumb of fat
Low cal drink
An example of this would be :
1 Scoop choc protein
1 Fist of spinach
1 thumb peanut butter
Water/ Plant based milk
Our aims for Post workout nutrition is to:
Protein After Exercise:
Eating protein after exercise helps increase and maintain muscle tissue. So is your go to for better recovery and performance.
In the past, experts suggested the optimum time for digesting protein was immediately after exercise. This had us all ready to go with a protein shake as soon as we finished our workout. However, new research suggests that the window is much larger than this.
Aim for 20/30 grams after exercise for a woman, double this for a male.
Carbs After Exercise:
The aim of carbohydrates after a workout is to restore muscle and liver glycogen.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need quick absorbing carbs/ sugars after a workout to do this. Non processed carbs or fruit is a much better choice.
Post Workout Food Ideas:
This is all dependent on what you ate before your session. If you had a smaller pre workout meal, it is important to eat sooner than if you had a bigger meal before.
0-2 Hours After exercise:
1 Palm of protein
1 Fist of veggies
1 Cup of carbs
1 Thumb of fats
Water/ low carb drink
Double this for a male.
For some, eating after a workout can be a struggle. If this is you, consider consuming your meal in liquid form.
There is no perfect nutrition strategy , it is always individual, and context specific. You must find what works for you by trial and error. The needs of a bodybuilder and going to be drastically different to an ultra marathon runner.
But for a general rule for the average gym goer is you are looking to consume minimally processed protein, carbs, fats, and veggies before and after. Make sure you don’t neglect your hydration needs!
In terms of timings, 2 hours before and after will give you maximal benefit.