Fueling your body well is crucial for optimal hypertrophy, post-workout recovery, athletic performance, and muscle maintenance during fat loss.
Eating the correct number of calories and hitting your daily macronutrient targets should be your priority. However, nutrient timing can also play a significant role.
With that in mind, let’s review some effective tips for optimizing your nutrition before and after working out.
1. Don’t Train Fasted
Our first tip is to avoid working out in a fasted state. For most people, a fasted state sets in after six to eight hours of not eating anything.
Training fasted can work on occasion, but the approach carries some drawbacks. First, your body lacks the fuel it needs to perform optimally, which means you’re likely to see a drop in your performance.
Second, fasted training speeds up muscle protein breakdown, leading to excessive and unnecessary catabolism.
If you must train early in the morning, have at least some branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) or essential amino acids (EAAs) beforehand.
2. Consume Protein & Cross Fire Training
A meal consisting of protein and carbs is perfect before training for a couple of reasons:
a) Protein supplies your body with amino acids, which kickstart the recovery process before the workout is over.
b) Carbs provide the fuel your muscles need during training, leading to better athletic performance.
Chicken with rice, pasta with meatballs, and scrambled eggs with a banana are excellent meals you can enjoy before and after training (more on that in a moment).
3. Avoid Dairy, Fatty Foods, and Fiber Before Working Out
Dairy, high-fat foods, and fiber can affect your digestion and ruin your workouts. For instance, many people find dairy challenging to digest in time before training and often feel nauseous as a result.
Similarly, high-fat foods like fatty meat and fish, nuts, and natural oils take longer to digest because of the more complex structure of fats. Avoid eating these foods before training or allow yourself more time for digestion (at least 2-2.5 hours).
Finally, avoid too much fiber because it can fill your stomach and slow digestion, even if you don’t eat that many calories. You can enjoy a serving of veggies and a piece of fruit but don’t go overboard if you plan on training in the following hour or two.
4. Kickstart the Recovery Process with a Balanced Meal
The importance of your post-workout meal will depend on what you eat before training and when example, if you have a big pre-workout meal two hours before your session, you won’t need to eat immediately afterward.
However, if you eat five or more hours before training, a post-workout meal will kickstart recovery and prevent muscle breakdown.
Like your pre-workout meal, you must eat protein and carbs, as both nutrients are necessary for recovery. Protein is essential for protein synthesis and muscle repair, whereas carbs replenish lost glycogen. Having more glycogen in your muscles is also beneficial for protein synthesis.
You can also enjoy some fats after training, but they won’t directly and immediately improve recovery. It’s simply a matter of preference and ensuring an adequate daily fat intake: at least 0.35 grams per pound of body weight.
There you have it: our four top tips for optimizing your nutrition around training. As you can see, it’s nothing ground-breaking or ‘revolutionary.’ As with most things, it pays to focus on the fundamentals.