We read a lot about when and how much to eat in order to make the most of our exercise. Why do we care so much? Here’s a couple good reasons:
- Having enough to eat before exercise increases our stamina, endurance, power, and overall output which allows us to push harder during workouts and see progress faster. This means we may look leaner sooner!
- Having enough to eat after exercise replenishes stored energy for our next workout, boosts muscle repair and growth, and reduces soreness in the days after a workout. This makes it easier for us to get back to it faster!
- Sticking to the above points will optimize your muscle growth and body fat percentage reduction without sticking you in the dreaded weight loss plateau.
- Not fueling ourselves well can result in reduced performance, light-headedness or nausea at the gym, early fatigue or burnout, breakdown of our muscle for quick easy energy to keep the body going, and even suppressed immune system function.
So do we have to add in two more meals or snacks a day? Won’t that cause us to eat too much? Not necessarily – arrange and plan your meals well, and there will be no need to add anything extra. Here’s the one-two punch for nailing your pre- and post-workout meals.
- Protein + carb. Scientific data shows that when eaten together, protein and carbohydrate do more for your body than when eaten alone. And the ratio is not what you’d expect – we should be aiming for 3-4 parts carb (from grains, dairy, fruits, and veggies) for every 1 part protein.
- Bookend your workout. Data fluctuates on the optimal time to eat, ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Depending on what time of day you exercise, plan to have a snack within an hour of exercise, and a meal within 2 hours of exercise. If you’re an early riser, have a slice of toast with PB before you hit the gym, and have your full breakfast once you get to work.
Picture Perfect Pre/Post Workout Snacks
The ideal ratio for your body to maximize performance and muscle recovery of your workouts is 3-4 servings of carbohydrate (45-60 grams) for every serving of protein (8-10 grams).
Pre-workout, your carbohydrate intake will supplement your glycogen stores and provide the blood sugar essential to endurance, power, and total output. This will allow you to hit faster speeds, heavier weights, or more sets/reps in your sessions. It will also make sure you don’t experience a drop in blood sugar levels during your workout that can cause light-headedness, nausea, or fainting.
Post-workout, carbohydrate intake will replenish glycogen stores and optimize the ability of protein to repair muscle and reduce soreness in the days that follow.
If you plan to work out close to a meal (either before or after), aim to have one of the snacks on the other side of your workout. Eat within 1-2 hours of your workout time and don’t forget your water bottle!
- A slice of Ezekiel bread, banana, and a tablespoon of nut butter: 45 grams of carbohydrate, 9 grams protein; 280 calories and 8 grams of fiber.
- 1 cup plain 1% yogurt with ¾ cup berries: 35 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams protein; 220 calories and 3 grams fiber.
- A smoothie with 1 cup 1% milk or soy milk, 1 cup spinach, and 1 cup frozen tropical fruit: 40 grams carbohydrate, 1 grams protein; 225 calories and 4 grams fiber.
*Note: using another milk substitute will compromise protein intake from this snack – if doing so, consider adding a serving of protein powder around 10-12 grams per serving.
- Crunchy Peanut Butter Cliff Bar: 40 grams carbohydrate, 11 grams protein; 260 calories and 4 grams fiber.
If you want some more tips on nutrient timing or a nutrition consultant to help you get started, find a Fitness Together studio near you today, by visiting here: https://fitnesstogether.com/personal-trainers-near-me.