A common question I get asked a lot when working with fitness clients or health coaching clients who are starting an exercise program. 'What should I eat before I work out or after?’
This blog is to be applied in general terms - As everyone is made up differently, (hello bio-induality), has different goals, genetics, lifestyles, workouts and metabolisms. So this isn’t a one size fits all but more of like a starting point for you to build from. Learning to listen to what your body needs and your desired goals will be important to consider.
Nutrient Timing - I didn’t realise how important this was until I played around with it. I started to feel so much stronger through my workouts, I had more energy to push harder when I started fueling myself better prior to workouts. I must throw down a protein shake post workout so you don’t miss the window, right? Well not really! Eating 6-7 small meals per day at exactly 3 hours apart is a must for fat loss, or doing cardio on an empty stomach, right? Not really again! Carbohydrates only before 3pm, don’t eat them at night? No! This is just silly too. You hear all these rules of when and how you should eat which is known as ‘nutrient timing', which is timing your intake (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) according to certain times of the day and in certain meal combinations. Of course, there’s going to be a place and time for being more strict around nutrient timing and some individuals have better results with proper meal combining and timing, but for the majority of us… it doesn’t matter too much. What’s more important than pre- and post-workout nutrition is your overall intake during the entire day! Making sure we’re are filling our bodies with nourishing whole foods on a daily basis rich in protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber and nutrients is key.
So where do we start?
Im sure you would probably already know by now that Im not a fan of pre workout drinks or supplements being the all-natural hippy like person I am. There is reasoning behind this, Most processed pre-workout supplements contain a huge amount of caffeine which can be incredibly taxing on our bodies (especially those with any hormonal issues). If you need a pre workout kick, go for the good old black coffee trick! Simple as that! Depending on your exercise routine, the pre-workout may or may not be needed. For example, if your exercise is made up mostly of walking, using the elliptical, or biking at a low-moderate pace for under 30 minutes, its very unlikely you’ll need a pre-workout.But if your workouts generally include heavy weight lifting, circuit training, HIIT, or a combination of the above, having a pre-workout will provide great energy to burst through your workout.
Pre Workout Foods:
Carbohydrate (no they’re not the enemy) mostly plus protein is best before workout
Fruits (bananas, apple, pears)
Dried Fruits (dates or apricots)
BCAA’s + fruit or some other form of carbohydrate
If you’ve eaten a decent meal about an hour or so before your workout, you probably don’t need a pre-workout snack (unless muscle building is your goal or you’re engaging in endurance/high intensity work)
Pre- and Post-workout nutrition really depends on your goals.Your pre-workout is determined by your goal (i.e. fat loss, competition, muscle building, maintenance, or general health), the post-workout nutrition will also be different. If health is your goal then nutrient timing doesn’t need to be so strict.
Post Workout Foods:
Carbohydrate + Protein + Low amount of fat
Wholefood based meal - eg. protein of choice with sweet potato and salad topped with an oil or avo.
Green Smoothie (fruit + protein of choice)
Smoothie Bowl (fruit + protein of choice)(Too busy for a meal)
Banana or Apple + Protein Shake (high quality only)
Oats, cinnamon and berries topped with hemp seeds
Protein Rich Pancakes