Proper nutrition before and after working out is fundamental to achieve the desired effects. This type of pre workout nutritional consideration helps provide our bodies with the necessary energy, protein, and essential fats so our bodies function well especially during workouts 1 Don’t think that simply eating a complete meal would suffice. We need to consume the needed nutrients that our body needs when working out.
Workouts mean more muscle stress, dehydration, and burning calories. Therefore, the nutrients that we take in should replenish what we lose during workouts. Proper nutrition also aids in anabolism wherein the body utilizes the energy to synthesize complex molecules to form cellular structures 2.
Essential pre-workout nutrition helps the body achieve maximum potential 3. The body needs extra energy, better endurance, and improved muscle strength. These help the body burn more calories and fat and also helps in improving concentration. The body also needs enough protein to help build the muscles and ensures that nitrogen is distributed into the muscles. It is recommended that you consume a full meal plus supplements at least 30 minutes to an hour before your workout, depending on your metabolism.
What to Eat Before a Workout?
A pre-workout meal should fuel the body without feeling sluggish or full. The meal should be low in fat and sugar, have moderate proteins, and high in complex carbohydrates. Too much fat and sugar causes the “bamboo effect” and most of the excess fat is retained by the body.
Too much protein makes you go to the bathroom a lot to pee. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and fuels the body longer. Carbohydrates also controls the blood sugar levels, though too many may cause unwanted spikes in blood sugar.
Women need 15 to 25 grams of protein, while men need an average of 24 to 45 grams of protein. On the other hand, men need 30 to 45 grams of complex carbs, and women need 20 to 30 grams. Here are examples of food that you can consume before working out:
- Protein rich food such as fish, chicken breasts, lean beef, eggs, and nuts such as almonds.
- Complex carbs such as vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, brown rice, whole grains, dark berries
- Fruit smoothies made of almond milk, bananas, and berries
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) – these take longer to digest and helps prevent hunger pangs. EFA is also essential for energy and increased hormone production, specifically testosterone.
Pre-workout is also the best time to take supplements. Vitamin supplements that are rich in B-vitamins gives you more energy and have anabolic properties. You can also take ginko biloba or tyrosine as these help improve concentration and mental focus so you won’t give up easily. One of the most popular pre workout supplements is protein powder which helps provide a rich amount of amino acids. Other notable protein-powder-like supplements utilized by many in pre-workout scenarios are collagen peptides and bovine colostrum powders. Each of these offer different benefits, and should be carefully considered before implementing into your pre or post workout routine. Make sure you consult a physician or nutrition specialist on the proper dosage for you. Other supplements that you can take are the following:
- Creatine – helps increase muscle volume and helps in water retention in the muscles. Dehydration is one of the main causes of muscle cramps.
- Caffeine and Ephedrine Hcl – when these two are paired together, the body burns more fat and energy is increased.
- BCAA (Branch-Chained Amino Acids) – An example of BCAA is leucine. BCAAs help stimulate protein synthesis, maintain nitrogen balance, and are essential in spare muscle breakdown.
- NO2 – helps dilate the blood vessels so that blood is easily pumped into the muscles. Some people don’t favor this supplement though because it cannot be taken with fat burners.
- Fat burner supplements – these supplements are vasoconstrictors, meaning the blood vessels are narrowed. Vasoconstrictors increase the heart rate giving you that feeling of high adrenalin as if your heart is racing.
After working out, the next thing that may cross your mind apart from thirst is to eat. Eating after workouts is fine so long as you avoid bingeing on hamburgers and fries. Your body needs proper nutrition after a good workout to help repair weakened muscles, replenish glycogen stores, rehydration of body fluids, and to prevent muscle fatigue.
A metabolic phase occurs 20 to 30 minutes after a workout. During this time, the muscles efficiently absorb more nutrients. It is best to instantly replenish your protein and carbs in liquid form. This is one reason why people bring protein drinks to the gym, so they can instantly recharge after working out. A cup of low-fat chocolate milk or a protein smoothie made of coconut water are some of the refreshments that you should try. Replenishing during this period helps your body retain its energy supply and repairs the tired muscles.
Proper nutrition after a workout should boost protein synthesis to hasten muscle repair. Glycogen is also lost during workouts. Therefore, this should be replenished so that the muscles will be rehydrated and encourage muscle growth.
What to Eat After Your Workout
It is best to consume a full meal at least an hour or two after working out. Apart from protein, here are some of the nutrients that you need to consume 4:
- Low GI food or those that burn more slowly – pasta, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, brown rice, vegetables. These carbs help restore the lost energy but without storing fats.
- Dextrose and maltodextrin – these can be found on food made from wheat and starch such as bread, as well as corn and potatoes. Dextrose and maltodextrin replace the lost glycogen and the calories. They also help in increasing the flow of insulin to the blood which regulates blood sugar levels.
- Anti-oxidants – Vitamin E, coenzyme-Q10, and zinc are antioxidants that help reduce muscle stress.
Working out doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself to get the ideal physique that you want. Eating the right kinds of food ensures that your body has the right amount of nutrition to help it function properly. Having the proper nutrition keeps you healthy and strong, which helps you workout better.
There are still some misconceptions about the use of supplements, so if you have misgivings you don’t need to take them. Otherwise, you can consult a nutritionist, dietitian, or fitness specialist if you decide to take supplements. Remember, everything in excess is not good.
Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and live a happy, stress-free life!