How many articles have you read on websites telling you that you NEED to smash a protein shake straight after training? Have you found yourself getting more confused about why you see people eating cereal before a workout – that’s unhealthy, right?
There are many theories and debates around nutritional timing and the impact it has on energy, performance and body composition. For the general person, nutritional timing is one of things that needs to be considered in terms of fuelling the body and good recovery. Nutritional timing of other meals, is less important and focus should be on eating well, and consistently hitting macronutrient and calorie targets for your desired goal. The pyramid below shows a good outline of what factors of nutrition come first and foremost for results.
Before a workout
What we do need to consider though, is the food that we eat before and after our workouts. This is one part of nutrient timing that should always be considered –as it is beneficial for fuel and recovery protocols. Simply, you eat before your workout for energy, and you eat after your workout to repair and rebuild muscle.
Your primary fuel tank is the energy stores in your meals (glycogen storage) and the secondary fuel is your fat reserves. Without any glycogen stores, you risk training with low blood pressure, less energy and the potential to burn through muscle, rather than protect or build it. We recommend eating 30-60minutes before a strength style workout, with foods that are low in fat, and rich in protein and high in complex carbohydrates. Calories from carbs affect your blood sugar levels. The affect on your blood sugar levels is calculated by the glycemix index. The higher the glycemix index (close to 100), the higher /quicker the bursts of energy you experience are. As a general rule, If the carbs are simple and easily digestible, they are high GI. The table below shows examples of low- high GI carbs.
Pre-workout fuel should be composed of medium to high digestable proteins and slower digestive carbs. The food digested before a workout will only be available in your bloodstream for a few hours, this is why we suggest eating 30-60minutes before a workout
Good pre workout examples:
- Egg whites and wholegrain bread
- Ground turkey, greens and black beans
- Oats mixed with water and protein powder
- Protein Pancakes made with egg whites and oat bran
- Wholegrain wrap and ham
After a workout
After a workout, your muscles are depleted from glycogen. Essentially, if you don’t eat well after workout, you body will simply find whatever resources it can to repair. One it has exhausted all possibilities, it will look to break down protein (muscle). After a workout, your body needs to repair. Not considering post workout nutrition can affect your performance later in the day, and the week, and can affect recovery protocols. After training your glycogen is depleted, refilling these stores increases protein synthesis. After workouts is when you should consider High GI carbs – to help illicit an insulin response to rebuild muscle, reduce soreness and recover more quickly. Fats should be avoided post workout, as they slow down the digestive process – and this is the one time you don’t want to slow down nutrients into the body. Consuming a combination of proteins and carbs accomplishes both repair and recovery. The “go to” protein shake is a great option – as it is easily digestible, however, without considering carbohydrates with your shake, you risk proper repair. It doesn’t HAVE to be 3 minutes after a workout, but the faster you get this meal in, the sooner the repair can begin. We suggest eating this meal within an hour after working out. We suggest pairing high GI foods with good proteins. This insulin spike stops protein breakdown right after working out.
Examples of what to eat after a workout are below:
- Special K, almond milk, protein powder and strawberries
- Chicken breast, green veg and pasta
- Greek yoghurt and fruit
- Lean beef patty and burger bun
- Protein shake and banana
- Smoothie with berries, yoghurt and low fat granola
- Protein bar