When we work out, whether it’s to gain increased stamina or strength, or to lose weight, there are parts of our diet that we need to focus on to ensure we are getting the best results possible.
But there are different things that we should be eating before our workouts compared to afterward as our bodies will be doing different tasks at these times.
To better help you prepare for your workouts and get the best out of your diet to complement your gym sessions, we’ve put together this handy guide of recommended nutrition for before and after your workouts.
What Are Your Gym Goals?
First of all, you’ll need to identify exactly what your aims are for going to the gym. Are you looking to gain muscle? Perhaps you’re looking to trim down your waistline? Whatever your reasons, there are things you can do to improve your results by maximizing the effectiveness of your diet around your exercise.
Of course, if you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating fewer calories than your recommended daily intake, or at least not going above that intake and instead of exercising enough to burn some of those calories off. When looking to gain mass, the opposite is important, but you’ll also want to focus more on foods that will help to repair muscle after vigorous weight training.
Is It Important To Time Your Nutrient Intake?
The most important thing to think about when going to the gym is actually your workout itself. Worrying about which hour you should have eaten a banana is just going to stress you out and it’s not super important. It’s worth noting as well that we all metabolize food at different rates making timing slightly inaccurate. Ultimately, it’s best to just make sure you’re eating the right things before your workout and afterwards.
Failing to stick to specific timings isn’t going to make much of a difference here. You just want to make sure you’re not eating anything too heavy right before you start on the treadmill or lifting weights, or you might make yourself feel a bit unwell if your body is still digesting.
Protein Before Exercise
Many people believe that you need to be consuming protein after a workout to repair muscle, but in fact, while that does help, eating protein a few hours before your exercise can be incredibly beneficial.
The speed and time it takes to digest protein is not overly important either so whether you’re drinking a whey powder-infused shake on your way to the gym or chowing down on some poached eggs for breakfast, your body is going to make use of that protein to help maintain and boost your muscle size and strength. It’s also said that protein taken before a workout may even help with reducing damage to our muscles too.
Carbohydrates For Energy
While these aren’t essential for a workout, you’ll find that without enough energy which is gained predominantly from carbohydrates, your performance may not be that great. This energy is distributed around your body, invigorating the cells in your muscles, and providing them with the boost they need to keep working harder, and providing you with a higher quality workout.
Foods like whole-grain cereal, pasta, brown rice, and fruits and vegetables like bananas and potatoes. Carbohydrates help to slow the usage of the energy in your muscles, giving you a much longer workout session, and they can also help with the recovery process too, reducing the soreness in your muscles.
Supplements To Enhance Your Workout
To further improve your nutrition before your workout, as well as afterwards, there are plenty of pre-workout ingredients or supplement options that can help. One of the most obvious options is the protein shake.
There are different variations of these from weight gainers to protein isolates which have reduced fat and carbohydrates for those that are looking to lose body fat and gain muscle mass. Ideally, before a workout, it’s said that protein hydrolysate is the best choice, which is absorbed much faster by the body.
As well as this, another popular choice is creatine. This supplement can be added to food and drink similar to protein powder, and actually give your body a further boost of energy, enhancing your performance during your workout. Take this at some point before your workout and make use of these increased energy levels to take your workout to the next level.
Stay Hydrated During Exercise
One of the worst mistakes you can make during exercise is failing to stay hydrated. While it’s important to try to hydrate before and after, it’s during exercise where we begin to lose excessive amounts of liquid through sweat and exhaling vapor.
By not replenishing these fluids, you can get dehydrated, which could cut your exercise short due to tiredness at best. At worst, you can overheat, increasing your chances of heat stroke, exhaustion, and, in some cases, seizures. Always bring some water with you and take regular breaks throughout your exercise sessions, so that you can get your breath back and refill those liquid levels.
Energy Boosters To Power Through
You might think it’s unwise to eat during a workout, and for the most part, you’re probably right. Eating a sandwich while running 10k on the treadmill is probably going to end up being a waste of a good sandwich. Avoid any heavy foods and meals, and instead, if you do want to eat and maintain those energy levels, choose light carbohydrate snacks like pretzels and snack bars, filled with nuts and other slow-release energy.
A peanut butter energy bar is a great choice here. Or you could always stick to the humble banana, which is packed with natural sugars and is very easy to digest. You could also choose a sports drink that contains electrolytes and carbohydrates to maintain the energy in those muscles.
Eating protein-rich foods after your workout is one of the best things you can do for repairing muscle damage and build up your strength.
There are plenty of reasons for us to eat more protein but more so after exercise. As we work out, whether you’ve been trying to lose weight or build muscle, those muscles we’ve used will have sustained damage. Our bodies will then attempt to repair these muscles over the next few days during rest and we need protein to achieve this.
A protein shake or a good quality meal full of protein and vitamins is an important choice after a gym session. Don’t worry so much about eating at a specific time, but it’s worth at least eating something within the following 1-2 hours to get the best results for your body.
Can You Eat Fat After A Workout?
It’s believed by some that if you eat fatty foods after a workout then these fats will actually interfere with the absorption of proteins and carbohydrates, reducing the effectiveness of your post-workout meal. But it’s actually been proven to not be the case at all, at least in small amounts.
Eating excessive amounts of fat from fast food will probably be a bad idea and will work against your goals to reduce your levels of body fat.
If you are looking to add some fat to your meal to increase your caloric intake, stick with healthier options like the unsaturated fats found in avocados and nuts.