Pre- and post-workout nutrition / what, when and why
What you consume before and after your workouts can greatly affect your performance, strength, recovery and the results you get from training. The pre-workout meal is going to fuel your workout and give you energy, and the post-workout meal is going to help your muscles to recover and grow, so you can push yourself hard again next time.
When it comes to fat loss and creating a better body shape, your number one priority should be muscle building! Yes ladies, muscle building, NOT calorie burning! Weight training is not going to make you look huge. Women simply haven’t got enough testosterone to gain that much muscle. However, combined with healthy nutrition, resistance training will help you get a tight and toned body. It also improves your metabolism so that you can eat more food and maintain your weight for life. (even with a more flexible diet approach)
In order to build muscle and lose fat, you need to eat enough to fuel your daily activities and workouts. Most women I work with freak out at the start when they hear the words ‘muscles’ and ‘more food’ lol, but after a few weeks, they realize how much better they feel both inside and out, by simply eating more healthy food.
Why do I need a pre-workout meal?
You want to be able to train hard in the gym to create a greater metabolic effect that will help you build muscle and burn fat, and to improve your overall strength and fitness. You certainly won’t be able to give your maximum in the gym, if you haven’t got enough energy because you are hungry. You need fuel to be able to train hard!
Think of performance when you are in the gym and not calorie burning! Always try to improve your workouts by pushing yourself to the best of your ability. After a tough weight training session, your metabolism stays elevated for up to 24-48 hours, meaning that your body will be burning calories at a higher rate even at rest. You don’t get these benefits from traditional cardio workouts, when you are only burning calories while you are on that machine, and as soon as you are done, so is the calorie burning.
When and what should I eat before my workouts?
Your pre-workout meal is important for providing energy for your workout. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, therefore your pre-workout meal should consist of some starchy carbs or/and fruit and some protein. Ideally eat something 2-3 hours before training if it is a bigger meal, or have a small snack 1-1,5 hour before you exercise.
Examples of pre-workout meals 2-3 hours before:
Protein pancakes with raspberries and peanut butter
Eggs, whole wheat toast, avocado, cherry tomatoes
Grilled chicken breast, sweet potato, green beans, olive oil
These meals are bigger and take longer to digest so ideally have them 2-3 hours before training.
Examples of pre-workout snacks 1-1,5 hours before:
Nutristrength protein slice (dried fruits, nuts, whey/rice protein)
Dark chocolate rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices
Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
Apple and a small handful of almonds
These meals are small and digest quickly so you can have them 1-1,5 hours before training.
Why do I need a post-workout meal?
During weight training sessions, your muscle fibers get broken down and become depleted of the glycogen (sugar) stored in them. They need to be replenished with protein and carbs post-workout for optimal muscle recovery and growth.
When and what should I eat post-workout?
Post-workout the body is more receptive for nutrients, so it is a good time to have some fast digesting protein and carbohydrates within an hour after training. This can be a protein shake/smoothie or a whole food meal. I personally like to enjoy a protein smoothie post-workout and I usually have some porridge with it as carbohydrates. However, if you prefer to eat a whole food meal post-workout, as opposed to a protein shake, that is absolutely fine. Ideally this meal should be lower in fats as it would slow down digestion, and after training your muscles need quick nutrients for optimal recovery.
Examples of post-workout meals:
Protein smoothie (made from fruits, and protein powder) and porridge
Grilled chicken breast, white basmati rice and greens
Low fat turkey Bolognese
Egg omelette with spinach and whole wheat toast
My best advice is to experiment with different foods and timings pre-workout and try to find what works best for you and what makes you feel strong and energized in your workouts.
I hope this helps. Please share this post if you have found it useful, and let me know if you have any fitness and nutrition related questions. I always love to hear from you!