What Should I Eat Before, During, and After My Workout?
We’re often asked the question, “what should I eat before/during/after my workout”? And it’s a very important question. Eating the foods to properly fuel your workout is essential for achieving optimal results. You can’t run a car on an empty tank, and your body won’t work to its full potential without proper nutrition. In this article, we’ll breakdown:
- What to eat before your workout (pre-workout) based on your body type
- What to take during your workout (peri-workout) based on your body type and goal
- What to eat after your workout (post-workout) based on your body type and goal
While the fitness industry is overpopulated with supplements that promise life transforming results, we’re going to focus primarily on real food. Not only are supplements pricey and risky, as most have no testing parameters to make sure they’re safe for public consumption, but there is a lack of substantiating evidence to support their usage. We’ll also include a free infographic that organizes all of this information for you in one resource. So, let’s get to it!
Most people don’t realize it, but regardless of your goal, the pre-workout nutrition is arguably the most important. It’s not so much what we fuel our body with immediately before exercise that matters, but what’s available for our body to use in the recovery process once the workout is complete. This is why we recommend the following advice: Have a balanced meal 1-2 hours before performing physical activity. This meal should be based on your body type and how your body utilizes calories.
What’s My Body Type?
Most people will identify with one of the following body types, or fall somewhere in between the following body types. Find the one that corresponds to you the most, and have the following meal 1-2 hours before exercise:
This individual is naturally skinny, has long limbs, and has a tendency to retain most of their body fat around their midsection
This individual is naturally more muscular, the type of person that puts on muscle just by looking at a dumbbell. They’ll have a tendency to retain their fat in their extremities (if anywhere)
This individual is naturally stockier than most people, in the past typically referred to as being “big-boned”. Although they may have underlying muscle, they’ll be more likely to store body fat evenly around the body.
Why Not a Pre-Workout Drink?
As we said before, most supplements are unsubstatiated. They rarely test for safety and efficacy, meaning it’s a shot in the dark if they actually work. In the event they do work, it’s more than likely a placebo effect. We’ll be doing a future post on what supplements are actually proven to work, and which brands to invest your time in.
The pre-workout phase is arguably the most important. We want nutrients to be available immediately after exercise to fuel our muscles and adequately recover. It takes roughly 3-6 hours for our body to digest and process foods into nutrients our bodies can partition into our cells. This is why eating 1-2 hours before exercise, exercising for an hour, then having food within an hour after exercise fits that window so well.
Although nutrition during this time of the workout isn’t nearly as important as pre-workout and post-workout, it can be the additional edge some individuals can use the be at the top of their game. Nonetheless, you should know what is the best nutrition practice to follow for this particular time. We’ve outlined them below based on body type and goal.
Similar to our pre-workout meal, our post-workout meal will focus on a balanced meal that is based on our body type. This meal is best eaten 1-2 hours after exercise in order to continue to help our body recover. The timing and way we approach this meal will vary based on the individual.
Fat Loss/Weight Loss Goal
With this goal, it isn’t imperative the meal be eaten too quickly once exercise is completed. Eating in the 2-3 hour post-workout period is acceptable. However, you should follow your hunger cues to let you know if energy is needed. Don’t ignore your stomach growling excessively in an effort to burn more calories. Our goal is to burn fat, not lose muscle, so when our body is hungry, we need to give it the energy it needs and prioritize protein intake.
Muscle Gain/Performance Goal
If you’re focus is adding muscle or enhancing performance, we recommend having that meal as soon as possible following your workout. In the event that you don’t have access to food within 2 hours of completing your workout, we recommend supplementing with a Protein and Carbohydrate recovery drink. Here is a link for an awesome, nutrient dense, meal replacement protein shake.
In addition to eating the correct balance of nutrients, we also recommend following our strategies for portion control. You can read more about this in our previous article Why Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work.