Pre & Post Workout Nutrition

Overview

A great training program is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to improving as an athlete. Proper nutrition can make or break your program.  Athletes should consume a meal 1-3 hours before a tough workout in order to improve stamina.  Eating in a fasted state will lower your energy levels and negatively effect your performance.  So, if you are playing a game or have a practice at 5:00, you need to eat again after lunch.  

Protein is important, but so are carbs and fats.  Each of these macronutrients contribute to your body's efficiency in turning food into energy for your workouts.  Your total macronutrients consumed throughout the day is more important than your nutrient timing.  This means that chugging a protein shake immediately after your workout is only going to help you if you are monitoring your protein sources the rest of the day as well.

How Muscle Building Works:

In order for muscles to hypertrophy, or grow, muscle breakdown needs to occur.  This usually occurs when you are performing strength training that your muscles have not already adapted to.  The actual muscle growth occurs when you are recovering from muscle breakdown.  This is where nutrition plays a huge role.  If you are not consuming sufficient nutrients, muscle synthesis cannot occur, therefore muscle degradation takes place instead of muscle growth.  The image below is a simplified depiction of the process of muscle growth.

Pre-Workout Nutrients

Protein:

An adequate amount of protein 1-3 hours before training can help elevate your blood amino acid levels and allow for protein synthesis.  Timing this meal will help prevent muscle protein breakdown during your workout, which can occur when your current muscle is used for energy.

Men should include 35-50g of protein in this meal, Women should include 20-35g of protein in this meal.

Carbohydrates: 

Carbohydrate fuel will not directly stimulate new muscle growth, but carbs are an efficient source of energy that can help you work harder during your workout.  Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the nervous and muscular system.

-Eat carbs 1-3 hours before training

(ex: nuts, oatmeal, rice, sweet potatoes.)

Fats:

Some fats can be good before your workout because they can help stabilize the blood sugar, which is important for keeping your energy levels up.  However, too many fats can really slow digestion.  So try to stick with lean meats and other low fat proteins when eating prior to your workout.

Examples of Pre-Workout Nutrition: 1-3 hours before 

Meal: Grilled Chicken Breast and Sweet Potatoes

Snack: Greek Yogurt and Mixed Nuts

Post-Workout Nutrients

Post-workout nutrition can aid in recovery by improving glycogen replenishment and increasing protein synthesis. When you train hard, proteolysis (protein breakdown) occurs during and after your workout.  As long as you have the nutrition sources to replenish your protein stores, this process can lead to muscle building.  

Protein:

Whey protein is a great option when replenishing protein stores post-workout for two reasons:

1. It contains higher amounts of the amino acid leucine, which maximizes protein synthesis.

2. It metabolizes quickly, giving your body access to these amino acids almost immediately. 

Generally, men should get 40-50 grams of protein post-workout and women should get 25-35 grams.  This number will vary based on age, weight, and daily intake.

Carbohydrates: 

Following your workout, your body will store incoming carbohydrates as glycogen to be used for energy rather than as fat.  This makes post-workout carbs extremely important in giving your body energy that can be used later on.  

Fats:

Keep post-workout fats low.  Fats slow digestion which will slow your body's process of recovery as well.

Examples of Post-Workout Nutrition: 1-2 hours following 

Meal: Lean Meat, Grilled Vegetables, and Rice 

Snack: Whey Protein Shake

 

References:

Grandjean, Ann C. Macronutrient intake of US athletes compared with the general population and recommendations made for athletes. Am J Clin Nutr May 1989, vol. 49 no. 5 1070-1076

Jeukendrup, A.E.; Aldred, S. Fat supplementation, health, and endurance performance.Nutrition. 2004, 20: 7-8, 678-688.