Whether you’re a professional athlete, a weekend warrior or a gym goer, good nutrition is vital for performance. Getting your nutrition plan right will help you optimise each training session and ultimately help you to reach your fitness goals. Knowing what to eat, and when to eat, before and after a workout can be a bit confusing, and is a problem many athletes and fitness goers struggle with at the beginning.
While workout nutrition will completely depend on the type of workout you are doing and the body composition goals you have in place, the basic principles remain the same.
Ideally, you should fuel your body 1-3 hours before your workout. A more substantial meal should be consumed 2-3 hours pre-workout, while a smaller snack can be consumed closer to the session. Food should contain both protein and carbs. Carbs are the fuel, while protein is what rebuilds and repairs. If your goal is weight loss, your pre-workout fuel will contain less carbs and more protein and be smaller in portion. If your goal is to gain mass, a bigger portion of carbs as well as protein should be consumed.
Examples of pre-workout snacks:
- Greek yoghurt
- Piece of toast and boiled egg
- Apple with peanut butter
- Rice cakes with almond butter
- Pasta with tomato based sauce
- Handful of nuts and raisins
- Muesli bar
- Honey sandwich
The most important thing to remember when choosing your pre-workout food is to choose something that is easy to digest and that won’t upset your stomach. This, as well as working out what time frame works best for your body will take some experimenting.
Simply put, our bodies run like a car—we need to re-fuel when our food stores have been depleted. Post-workout nutrition should therefore focus on refilling energy storages and provide enough protein to prevent muscle protein breakdown and stimulate muscle synthesis. Independent of your goals, a post-workout meal should always be consumed. As soon as possible, try to eat high quality protein and carbs (ideally 30-60 minutes after a workout).
Examples of post-workout foods:
- Chocolate milk
- Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
- Tuna salad sandwich on wholegrain bread
- Spinach and egg whites omelette
- Hummus and pita bread
- Yoghurt and berries
- Salmon with brown rice and sweet potato
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
- Cottage cheese and fruits
- 2 hard boiled eggs on toast
- Protein rich green smoothie
Essentially, a balanced main meal that contains protein, healthy fats and a portion of carbs will replenish your glycogen stores and aid muscle growth and repair. It’s also important to note that there’s no real evidence that protein powders, especially the fast-digesting kind, are any better for us than whole food protein after training. If you are someone who prefers to consume protein in liquid form after a workout, then a protein shake is definitely suitable, however you should be able to get all the protein you require through a well-balanced diet (= save your $$$ from expensive protein powders!)
- Meals: 2-3 hours prior
- Snacks: 0-90 minutes prior
- Mixture of protein and carbs
- Refuel as soon as possible, ideally within 30-60 minutes, no more than 2 hours post
- Focus on protein and carbs
- Don’t underestimate the power of nutrition and the impact it has on your fitness goals
- Everyone is different and therefore have different needs when it comes to nutrition
- Find out what works best for you, your body and your goals
- HYDRATE! Pre/during/post exercise – don’t forget to hydrate throughout