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March 06, 2019

Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meals Guidelines by Coach Rachel

I get the question all to often…..What should I eat before and after I workout?

It’s true there are better food choices to have before and after your workout out that will not only help boost your performance but also help preserve muscle mass and speed up your recovery.

The big picture here is to remember these meals aren’t magic meals. They aren’t going to be the thing that helps with a new PR or shaves seconds off your workout! Remember, it comes down to what you are eating every day that really matters.

You want to try to get your PRE-WORKOUT meal in 1-2 hours before working out. This all depends on food choices and digestion.

Here’s what to include in your Pre-workout meal:

Protein.  Protein plays an important role in repairing and rebuilding your muscles. When exercising, our body’s demand for protein increases. Protein can also help you maintain or increase muscle size, which is important for anyone who wants to improve his or her body composition and athletic performance.  I personally like a protein shake which is an easy go-to option and digests quickly. Whole foods (such as lean meat or low-fat Greek yogurt) are also fine as long as your digestive system can handle it. For men, aim for 35- 60 grams of Protein and for women 20-40 grams.

Carbs. Carbs are a Great Fuel Source! Now I know your head automatically goes to potato chips, candy, and cereal… these carbs are what I like to call the “naughty” carbs. But when I’m talking about carbs that are actually whole foods: Sweet potatoes, bananas, blueberries, oats… the carbs that won’t have such a drastic effect on your glycemic index and actually convert to energy to help FUEL you for your workout. Whether you’re an endurance athlete going for a long run or a CrossFit athlete preparing for a high-intensity WOD, carbs can improve your performance and help increase muscle retention and growth.

How many grams of carbs should you consume? This is specific to each individual and may take time to find the right formula. (or see coach Rachel for a specific plan) Just remember, our bodies can only digest and absorb 60-80 grams of carbs during exercise.

Fat.  Fats should be kept on the lower side of things when consuming your Pre-workout meal. Fat slows digestion, and too much fat can slow down the digestion of the carbs and protein, which won’t allow your body to utilize them properly. I recommend for Men around 10 grams and for females around 5 grams. Fats do not seem to improve athletic performance (carbs are better for this), but they are important for vitamins, minerals and help with cravings throughout the day — and they taste great!

Special Considerations:
For endurance athletes or those with specific body composition goals, a more detailed, individual plan is required (including, possibly, intra-workout nutrition). 
For example, if you are an endurance athlete doing a long 15-mile training run, or if you are trying to gain significant muscle and struggling to do so, you may need intra-workout carbs. This is something you can discuss specifically with Coach Rachel.

What about early-morning training? We have people waking up before the sun and heading to the gym. The last thing they want to think of is getting up even earlier to get some food in their bellies to help fuel them for the workout! I tell these clients it’s not what you consume that morning but actually what you consume before you go to bed! I know it’s taboo to eat past 7 p.m for some but the food we eat prior to going to bed can actually help maintain a better glucose level so when you wake up and get ready to go kick some butt in the workout your not running on E.

Post-Workout Nutrition

The goal for our post-workout meal, is to kick-start recovery, rehydrate and to refuel.
Timing is different depending on what your Pre-Workout was and when. If your Pre-Workout meal was 2 hours before your workout then your Post-Workout meal should be a bigger priority and taken ASAP after a workout. I like to tell people they have ½ hour – 1 ½ after your workout to get their Post-Workout meal in.

Here is what to include in your Post-Workout meal.
Protein: Protein post-exercise prevents muscular breakdown and stimulates synthesis. (This can lead to increased or maintained muscle tissue.  Stick with 35-60 grams for men and 20-40 grams for women.

Carbs: We are looking for blends of minimally processed whole-food carbs Post-Workout, examples are, oats, sweet potatoes, rice and/or fruit like bananas or apples.

Fats: The amount of fat you should consume post-workout can be higher than your pre-workout meal. As research suggests, this will not negatively impact muscle growth or muscle glycogen synthesis. You might have to play around with the amount of fat. I like to just stick to the same rule of thumb from my Pre-Workout meal but I’m more relaxed if it’s a little higher.

In summary:
Before, during and after training, we want a combination of protein, high-quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats. The amount of each macronutrient will vary depending on your needs and personal preferences. Before training, aim to make your meal consist of easier-to-digest carbs plus protein, with minimal fat. After training, consume complex carbs and protein, and it’s safe to add more fat to this meal.  

Ideally, we want to eat one to two hours before training as well as within two hours after training for maximal benefit. For early-morning exercisers who cannot eat one to two hours before their session, consider consuming a bigger evening meal.

Don’t think that by doing your Pre and Post workout meals to a “T” is going to get you looking better naked. It is the total caloric intake that you consume daily that is going to have the biggest effect on your body composition. This needs to be consistent for a long period of time not sporadic over the week.

The key thing to remember with all nutrition advice is that what works best for you may not work best for others. This all depends on goals, body size, digestive system and activity. This is where Coach Rachel can help you customize your plan and adjust it based on your goals and what will work for you. Now go eat some carbs !        

~Coach Rachel~