What To Eat Before And After A Workout?

What To Eat Before And After Workouts
  • A healthy meal before and after workout is needed to maintain the glycogen stores, faster muscle recovery and hydration.
  • Consuming a 400 to 500 calories meal consisting of good quality protein (20g) and low glycemic index carbohydrates (30g) about 2 to 3 hours before the work out.
  • Consuming light meal and foods containing simple carbohydrates and protein about 30 minutes to an hour before work out.
  • Try to eat 30 gms protein and 30 to 35 gms carbohydrates within 15 minutes after work outs if your main goal is to build muscle.
  • You can eat within 45 minutes after work out, if your main goal is to stay in shape or shed few pounds.

When we decide to put on our shoes and pull up  our sleeves to do workouts, we are always bombarded with conflicting thoughts as in what to eat before we go for our workout, do we really need to eat and what is recommended after the workouts.  Eating proper nutrients around the training is essential for progress and makes a difference in achieving goal and recovering faster.

What To Eat Before And After A Workout?

Let us see what nutrients are required before we begin the workout.

What To Eat Before And After A Workout?

Nutrients Required Before Workout

1. Carbohydrates

Yes, there are arguments as to why carbs? Isn’t it fattening? How much should we eat? Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source. If its preferred,it doesn’t mean that you can gorge into plates and plates of mashed potatoes or stuff yourself with energy bars. You just need right amount of carbohydrates in order to fuel your body so that it can train at its best. Every gram of carbohydrates that we eat should either be utilized for fuel or it should restore as glycogen store.It should not be stored as fat.

Carbohydrates offer the muscles sugar that can be used to produce energy or ATP. Of course, fats and protein also can be utilized by the muscles to produce energy but it takes longer time and is not preferred form of fuel source for high intensity exercise.  You don’t need to load with carbohydrates,how much carbohydrates you need depends on how hard are you exercising. If you are just planning for a light jog, you don’t need to ton yourself with carbohydrates. If you are going for running long distance,weight lifting workouts or even 20 minutes High Intensity Interval Training, you need to fuel on carbohydrate. Moderate or low glycemic index foods like oatmeal, brown rice or whole wheat pastasare recommended. You don’t need to have overabundance of carbohydrates too close to your workout as your body will not have time to metabolize the food. As a rule, you need to consume 30 to 40 grams of carbohydrates one or two hours before the workout.

2. Proteins

During any exercise session, a considerable amount of muscle protein loss occurs because the protein synthesis is either decreased or unchanged whereas there is an increase in the breakdown of protein. When there is increased amounts of amino acids in the blood due to the ingestion of amino acids before and during the workouts, as against after workouts can counter the loss of protein. Consumption of essential amino acids and carbohydrate drink before the exercise has good effect on the muscle protein synthesis compared to post exercise as they cause increased delivery of amino acids to the muscles leading to increased anabolism and decreasing catabolism. Having a protein shake 30 minutes before the workout will allow the amino acids to float in the blood streams when you start to workout.

Users of whey protein will bring out better results prior to training than those who use other protein sources. People who are on diet may be skeptical about the protein pre workout, hence in such cases 10 to 15 gms of Branched Chain Amino acid are recommended. Branched chain amino acids in the form of hydrolyzed whey or hydrolyzed casein are absorbed much faster than intact protein and induce greater insulin response if consumed pre-exercise.

3. Water

Studies have shown that dehydration can reduce your strength,power and high intensity endurance during the workout. In the morning of the athletic event or training work out, drink 2 cups of water beforehand as your kidneys get enough time to process fluid giving you enough time to empty your bladder before the event. Drinking about 8 ounces of water 30 minutes before hitting the gym ensures that your muscles are on fire and then drink 16 ounces during the course of 1 hour workout.One oz. equals medium mouthful of water.

The Foods To Be Eaten Before Workouts

The foods that are favorable to be eaten before workouts are:

1. Whole Wheat Bread With Slices Of Banana And A Dash Of Cinnamon

Whenever we plan to eat before workout, carbohydrates have been the best preference. The combination of complex and simple carbohydrates from this food helps you keep going adding to the potassium level which tends to go down when you sweat. Addition of cinnamon helps in stabilizing the blood sugar levels.

2. Yogurt With Nuts And Dried Fruits

You are planning to run? Then have yogurt mixed with dried fruits and nuts. Seeds and nuts are high in fat and takes longer time to digest,hence yes,moderation is the key. The natural sugar present in dry fruits provide the energy boost and the nuts keep the insulin level from dropping down in between the workout.

3. High Protein Oatmeal

This recipe provides protein goodness by adding eggs. A very simple recipe that adds eggs with flax seed powder, adding the healthy fat to the mix and keeping the oats texture intact. Take ½ cup oats, 1 egg, 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed powder , ½ tsp. Cinnamon and 1 mashed ripe banana,mix all the ingredients well in a pot and in medium heat till it reaches oat meal consistency and the egg is not runny.

4. Apricot, Almond And Dates Energy Bar

This snack is truly an energy bar without refined sugar and can be prepared and stored in the fridge for one week. Grind about 1 ½ cup almonds in a grinder till it becomes crumbly. Now add 1 ½ cup dried apricots,1 cup dates, 3 tbsp. flaxseed powder, 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut and ½ tsp. cinnamon and process the mixture well till it forms a ball .Now place the ball on the baking dish and press it slightly with fingers so that the mixture flattens evenly. Now place the baking dish in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes so that the mold hardens. Remove the mold and cut the mold with the knife to form square pieces. Keep these stored in the fridge and will last over a week in an air tight container.

When we get on to be creative,we try and explore various combinations with natural ingredients so that a healthy and filling pre workout snack is prepared for achieving the goal.

If you feel that since you have done work out or intensive training, now you can sink into a bucket of fries or a large cheese burger,then you need to think again. When you have given so much of thought about the pre work out meals then why not the post work out meals? Consuming the right nutrients after the work out is as important as you eat before.

Nutrients Required After Workout

When we work out,our muscles use up the glycogen stores leading to depletion of glycogen from the muscles. Apart from the glycogen, the protein present in the muscles also breaks down. Hence it is essential for the body to replenish the glycogen stores and rebuild the protein in the muscles. Hence having right nutrients help in increasing the synthesis of the protein in the muscles, restoring the glycogen stores and decreasing the breakdown of protein and enhancing the recovery.

1. Protein

It is essential to have 0.3 to 0.5 gms/kg protein soon after the work out. A 20 to 30 gms of protein helps in enhancing the recovery of muscles after the exercise. Protein-rich foods like plant or animal based protein powder, eggs, chicken, lean meat and Greek yogurt are preferable.

2. Carbohydrates

Consuming carbohydrates is important for people who exercise often, like doing exercise twice in a day. But if you are doing work out after a gap of every 2 to 3 day rest, then the consumption can be reduced. To restore glycogen in the muscles, it is essential to consume 1.1 to 1.5 gms /kg carbohydrates within 30 minutes after work out. Try consuming both carbohydrates and protein at a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). Carbohydrate rich foods like quinoa,oats,sweet potatoes and fruits like banana,kiwi and pineapple are recommended.

3. Water

Loss of water and electrolytes through sweat occurs during exercise and hence replenishing water and electrolytes are essential.

Foods for The Post Workout Meals

Healthy fat rich foods like avocados, nuts, nut butter and trail mix (seeds and dry fruits) helps in improving the recovery after exercise. It is recommended to have a post work out meal within 45 minutes of workout as the delay in the carbohydrate consumption as long as 2 hours after the work out can lower the rates of glycogen synthesis by 50%. However the timing of post work out meal can be extended little longer depending on what time have you eaten the pre work out meals.

Foods that have been recommended for the post work out meals are:

1. Whole Wheat Wraps With Veggies

The fibre rich wraps with veggies helps to replenish the stores and helps in avoiding overeating later. You can enhance the protein content in the wrap by adding turkey or few pieces of tofu.

2. Almonds and Orange

The combination of orange and almonds have been an answer if you don’t have time to have elaborate kind of post workout meal. Nuts provide protein and healthy fat and curbs appetite whereas oranges provide Vitamin C,carbs and hydration in one package. It is good to load up on nutrients and vitamins as our body will readily absorb vitamins and minerals after exercise.

3. Vegetable Omelet with Avocados

A vegetable packed omelet is rich in protein which helps in muscle recovery. Apart from this, avocados add up to the fibre and mono unsaturated fats and aids in better absorption of fat soluble nutrients like Vitamin A,D,E and K that the veggies provide.

4. Protein Shakes

If you require protein fast, then you cannot go wrong with simple and protein-rich shakes. You can opt for whey protein powder or vegan powder and boost the nutrients by add ons like fruits, peanut butter and milk of your choice.

Hence lots of option available in terms of pre-workout and post work out meals that are healthy and interesting to try and consume. We don’t need to depend on processed foods or health drinks totally to satisfy our nutrients, we can always try the foods easily available at home to provide a healthy meal. If there are queries regarding how much or when to have these meals, you can always consult a dietician.

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Mrs. Anita Varier is a Post Graduate in Home Science with specialization in Food Science and Nutrition from S.N.D.T Women's University, Mumbai. She cleared her NET(Lecturership) exam in 2004 and taught students at Post Graduate level. Some of her works have been published in dietetic journals and websites, the most notable being "Blending of edible oils to achieve nutritionally favourable fatty acid ratios" in Journal of Oil Technologists' Association of India. She is an avid reader and shows immense interest in the field of art like dance and music.

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