When you first start in the gym you can get away with eating the wrong foods, eating them at the wrong time and you’ll still get some good gains. As time goes on though, your results will begin to slow. Especially if you continue to eat those same foods. If you want to get back on track and start getting not only good results, but great results, you need to take a hard look at what you’re fuelling your body with.
I’m going to give the what, when and how much, when it comes to pre and post workout nutrition.
Macros The pre workout meal is there to fuel your workout. Think of your body as a car. Your car won’t perform very well for long if there’s no fuel in the tank.
When it comes to your body, that fuel is carbohydrates. You want to be adding low to moderate GI cabrs in this meal as these will be your main source of energy while you’re in the gym.
Next up in your ‘pre’ meal is protein. Protein is not only required to repair and build muscle, but it also balances out the nitrogen levels in your muscles.
Last but not least are fats. Essential fatty acids will help maintain high testosterone levels as well as keeping up your energy.
Timing You’ll want to have your meal 1 to 2 hours before your workout depending on the size of your meal (which depends on your goals) and how long it takes you to digest food. You want to make sure your food is digested 15-30mins before you start your workout so the blood can leave your stomach and get back to your muscles.
How Much and What Foods Should I Have? This will depend on your goal. If you’re looking at bulking up then you’ll be consuming more and if your working towards shred town then obviously less.
An easy way to sort it out is if you have roughly 25% of your daily carbs should be in your pre-workout meal. These can include brown rice, whole grain pasta, wholemeal bagels/bread or sweet potato.
Protein should be spread out pretty evenly throughout the day. If you should be consuming 300 grams of protein per day and you are having 6 meals a day then you’d be having 50 grams in your pre workout meal. A good lighter protein source for before workouts are eggs, but things like fish, chicken or turkey are also go-to’s!
Fats you want to keep fairly low in your pre workout meal as they can slow down the digestive process which means your meal could be sitting in your stomach while you’re trying to squat - which nobody wants! Healthy fats can be coconut oil, almond oil or avocado.
Post Workout Nutrition
Now that you’ve smashed your workout to pieces you need to re-fuel or you can kiss goodbye any good results!
During your workout you subject your muscle fibers to micro tears. It is protein that is responsible for the repair and growth of these fibres and therefore after your workout your protein breakdown increases. In addition, your glycogen stores (muscles energy) become largely depleted post workout. If we don’t adequately replace and refuel all of this then we can lose muscle mass.
I’m going to talk through this is two parts – Whey Protein and Post Workout Meal.
Whey Protein You want to have this ASAP after you finish your workout. Now depending on your goal it will change what type of protein shake you have. Mass Gainer or Whey Protein shake are going to be the 2 most common. They’re both going to contain protein obviously which as stated above is going to help repair and rebuild your muscle fibers you’ve just torn apart. There will also be carbs and sugars in the mix. Mass gainers are going to have a lot more than a regular whey protein mix but the carbs and sugars are going to help quickly replenish your glycogen stores which will give you muscles their energy back. Don’t be scared by the sugar because if the rest of your diet is in check then you’re not going to be putting fat on, you’re just replacing what you’ve burned.
Other supplements to add to your post workout shake can include;
- Creatine to will help with your muscle recovery by increasing protein synthesis and also elevates insulin like growth factor, an anabolic hormone.
- Glutamine needs to be replaced after depleting it during your workout as its important for protein synthesis while reducing catabolism. It will boost muscle growth by by increasing muscle cell volume and growth hormone release.
- Caffeine in your shake has also been shown to reduce post workout soreness by 50%.
- Fish Oil tablets will also help with sore joints.
Post Workout Meal Within an hour of having your shake you’re going to want to get a proper meal into your body. A bit of this has already been covered but lets make sure you’ve got it.
Your carbs are going to again be slow to moderate GI. About 25% of your daily carbs should be in this meal. Food sources would be pasta, whole grain breads, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, brown rice and vegetables.
Protein in this meal can be a little heavier that your pre workout meal. White meats like chicken, turkey, fish or your leaner red meats like pork, kangaroo or lean beef. In addition, you can also add in eggs or nuts.
In terms of fats, the inclusion of monounsaturated fats such as avocados and nuts are known for promoting cardiovascular health. Fish has omega 3 fatty acids which promote healthy cells through strengthening the cell membrane and providing better cell fluidity.
I personally have my pre workout meals all prepped in the fridge ready to go which makes it nice and easy and I only have to cook for them once a week. However, I like to cook my dinner fresh each night after my workout so I’m able to mix up what I’m eating and give myself more variety so I don’t get bored. One of the keys to eating right and staying on top of your pre and post nutrition is knowing all the different foods that fit those important macros. Educate yourself on these foods, pre-pare your meals and you’ll be getting great results in no time.