In order to workout at your best and see optimal results you need to eat the right balance of carbohydrates and protein both before and immediately after your exercise sessions. The pre-workout meal provides the energy for you to exercise at maximum intensity, and the post-workout meal provides the nutrition your body needs for optimum rebuilding and recovery.
As a general rule, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because your stomach will be trying to digest the food you’ve eaten at the same time you’re exercising which may cause some feelings of nausea and GI discomfort. Ideally, you should eat about 1 to 3 hours before your workout, depending on how your body tolerates food. It’s best to experiment and see what time frame is best for you.
You pre-workout meal needs to be a combination of carbohydrates for the energy to fuel your muscles, and protein in order for your body to make the right amino acids to rebuild and repair your muscles. Here are some good suggestions for a pre-workout meal:
- A peanut butter and banana sandwich
- Yogurt with berries
- Oatmeal with low-fat milk
- An apple with peanut of almond butter
- A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit
The goal of a post-workout meal is to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to start the recovery process. Your body uses the stored carbohydrates (glycogen) as energy to fuel your workout, and those glycogen stores need to be replenished. Also, your body wants to start rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue damage caused by your workout and it needs the proper amount of protein to perform this task. Thus, immediately giving your body the nutrients it needs for exercise recovery is very important.
You need a carbohydrate source that your body can quickly convert into glycogen such as fruit combined with 21 to 30 grams of a high quality protein so your body can start to rebuild and repair muscle. The body wants to start the recovery and rebuilding process immediately after you finish your workout. Therefore, having a post-workout meal within 30 minutes of completing your exercise is best for optimal recovery.
Your body breaks down the protein you consume into tiny building blocks called amino acids and these amino acids are involved in almost every process that takes place in your body. You need to have at least 21 grams of protein in your recovery meal because that is the threshold of where your body knows it has enough amino acids to start the process of muscle rebuilding and repair. In short, if you don’t get enough protein in your post-workout meal, your body starts breaking down your muscle tissue to make the amino acids it needs for survival.
Here are some good suggestions for post-workout meals:
- A whey protein shake with a medium size banana (make sure it contains 21 to 30 grams of protein)
- 3 to 4 ounces of lean meat, fish, or poultry with a medium size piece of fruit
- Yogurt mixed with whey protein powder and berries