No matter if you’re an athlete training for a competition, a weekend gym goer, or figuring out this whole fitness-thing, your pre and post workout nutrition can play an important role in how you feel during training, your performance and (most importantly) your results.
Knowing what to eat and when, can seem a bit confusing. So this blog will break down the principles of pre and post training nutrition.
WHY IS PRE & POST WORKOUT NUTRITION IMPORTANT?
You’ll often hear that you need to “fuel” your workouts, in the same way you need to put petrol in a car to keep it running. You can’t expect your car to run properly on an empty tank. Sure you might be able to get out a few km’s – but you’re not going to be able to get very far.
The same can be said of your body. When you’re training, you want to get the best from your workout.
Planning your food intake and being mindful of certain macronutrients can improve your performance, enhance muscle protein synthesis (MPS), speed up recovery and even improve your mood after a workout.
The ideal time to eat your pre-workout meal is 60-90 minutes before training.
This will allow your food to mostly digest by the time you head to your workout.
This is a golden window that ensures you utilise the Calories from your meal, while avoiding feeling lethargic or having any digestion discomfort while training.
You should ideally eat your post-workout meal between 30-60 minutes after training.
This will help quickly replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles and encourage optimal muscle protein synthesis to increase recovery, repair and muscle gain.
When it comes to pre and post workout, protein is the pretty important!
It is the building blocks of your body and is principal to muscle growth and recovery. Having the right amount of protein will increase strength, muscle growth, lean body mass, and physical performance. So it’s something you want to keep in mind when planning your meals around your training.
Including around 20–40g of protein both before-and-after your training session is shown to maximally stimulate muscle growth.
One addition consideration on a vegan diet is selecting a protein with adequate levels of leucine. Leucine — is an essential amino acid known for its anabolic effect in initiating muscle growth. Basically, if growing muscle is a running a car, then leucine is the ignition spark!
The best plant based source of leucine can be found in soy foods like tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein (TVP), edamame, or soy protein isolate. Choosing primarily soy foods before-and-after training can be a sure-fire way help promote maximum muscle growth and recovery.
Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source and vital to train hard and recover well. So they’re pretty important when it comes to our pre & post workout nutrition.
Your pre and post training meals should be dense in carbohydrates. Roughly, you want 20-30% of your total daily carbs in each meal.
For a person consuming 200g of carbs per day, they would have 40-60g of carbs in their pre-workout and then 40-60g of carbs again in their post workout.
To get the most bang for your buck in regards to muscle growth and recovery, it helps to optimise the absorption of carbs and protein.
Meals which are high in dietary fat slow down digestion. So to increase the uptake of protein and carbs pre & post training it can be beneficial to keep these meals relatively low in fat – around 10-20% of your total daily intake. This would be around 5-12g of fat for the average person.
While not directly related to your food per-se, water plays an important role in training performance and recovery. Dehydration increases your body temperature and heart rate and decreases blood volume. This reduces performance, skill level, endurance, strength, and increases fatigue during training.
Depending on the exercise intensity and duration, a guide is to have two cups of water 2-3 hours prior to exercise, and one cup of water 10 to 20 minutes before working out. During exercise, aim for one cup of water for every 15 to 30 minutes of intense physical activity, especially if you are sweating profusely or are training in a heated environment.
If you’re completing a long workout over 90 minutes, consuming a sports drink either before, during or after can help manage lost electrolytes from training.
SUMMARY: PRE & POST WORKOUT MEALS
Getting used to pre and post workout nutrition can take some trial and error but it is completely achievable.
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of similarities between pre and post workout nutrition and often your pre-workout meal can be the same as your post-work out meal (if you enjoy it!)
YOUR PRE & POST WORKOUT MEAL TEMPLATE
20-40g of protein
20-30% of your daily carbs
10-20% of your daily fats
Eaten ~60 mins either side of your workout
A few glasses of water, or a sports drink
If in doubt, focus on getting in carbs, protein and hydration on either side of your training and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of pre and post workout nutrition.