Whether the goal is to lose fat, gain muscle, or build strength, you must understand that what you put in your mouth pre/post-workout has the power to speed up or slow down your progress.
Pre or Post-Workout Nutrition: Which is More Important?
The length and the quality of our training sessions are highly dependent on our pre-workout nutrition and supplementation. To ensure optimum performance, we must fuel our bodies with the right foods for energy, and choose the appropriate supplements for enhanced athletic performance.
Post-workout nutrition and supplementation is just as crucial as pre-workout nutrition and supplementation. During training, the body is in a catabolic state, which is the state of breaking down larger molecules into smaller ones. This could mean the breaking down of glycogen into glucose, proteins into amino acids, or fats into fatty acids. Post-workout nutrition and supplementation helps the body regain energy, recover, and grow bigger and stronger by restoring what was catabolized during the workout, plus more.
Everyone is unique and performs better on different foods and supplements, but below are some widely recommended options that would suit almost everyone:
What to Eat: Before the Workout
Complex carbohydrates are the preferred carbohydrate source for pre-workout nutrition since it provides a steady stream of energy as compared to the quick burst and subsequent crash that would normally accompany simply carbohydrates.
- At least 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight is recommended.
- A few examples of complex carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, whole grain rolled oats, and quinoa. Fruits are also acceptable as a pre-workout meal since some are high in fiber, which helps slow down digestion. These include all types of berries, bananas, apples and oranges.
- Consuming 10-15 grams of protein prior to your workout will provide amino acids to prevent muscle tissue breakdown.
Those who need a boost of energy may want to purchase a pre-workout supplement. Many pre-workouts are stimulant-based to give you a surge of energy, which can help with muscle endurance, focus, mood, energy and muscle pumps. There are also non-stimulant pre-workouts for those sensitive to stimulants but would still benefit from the mood-enhancing effects of pre-workouts.
- Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are also commonly used supplements that are taken pre-workout and intra-workout as well. These two supplements prevent muscle catabolism and provide a small boost of energy during longer workouts.
In contrast with pre-workout nutrition, simple carbohydrates are the preferred choice for post-workout to replenish glycogen stores as quickly as possible and to jumpstart the recovery process. Simple carbohydrates can be identified as foods that are low in dietary fiber and score high on the glycemic index.
- In addition to simple carbohydrates, studies show that at least 25 grams of protein should be consumed post-workout to reach the Leucine threshold required to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
The most commonly used post-workout supplement is whey protein. It's also the most versatile, as it can be suited for muscle-building and fat loss purposes. It is quick absorbing since it is taken in liquid form.
- A whey protein isolate or hydrolyzed whey protein would be ideal, but a whey concentrate and whey isolate blend would suffice.
- Creatine is also best taken post-workout. Creatine increase the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and helps supply energy to the body. This can contribute towards muscle hypertrophy due to the potential increase in training volume and strength. Creatine is usually taken with dextrose powder (100 on the glycemic index scale) post-workout to shuttle it into glycogen stores more quickly.
Dehydration can affect physical and mental performance. It increases heart rate and body temperature, as well as perceived exertion. According to studies, loss of fluid equal to 2% of body mass is enough to cause a dip in performance. Fluid loss greater than 2% puts the individual at risk of diarrhea, gastro-intestinal problems, nausea and vomiting.
- Drinking fluids during exercise prevents drops in performance caused by dehydration.
- Replace 125-150% of lost fluids after exercise.
- Plain water is sufficient for replenishing lost fluids. However, electrolytes and carbohydrates may be added to water for enhanced performance in high intensity and endurance sports.