Apr 11th, 2016
What do I eat before and after a workout?
Beginning CrossFitters often ask this question once they realize that they can’t eat ANYTHING before a workout, that Big Mac can really slow you down and make you feel queesy.
Furthermore, for some of the early morning folks, it’s often a question of “how in the world do I eat and get some quick energy in the AM when I don’t even feel hungry?”
Fear not…there are some guidelines that will help you feel energized, feed your muscle growth, and they aren’t too difficult to implement even if you do work out super early in the morning (like I do :-P).
What you need: Pre-workout carbs (approximately 35-50 grams of carbs) and some energy/bcaas
- These are used to fuel the CNS (Central Nervous System), delay fatigue, and top off your glycogen stores.
- Carbs also help supply blood glucose energy for maximum performance in the gym.
- This can strategically be done by making a carb(4)/protein(1) mix that they drink about ⅓ BEFORE the workout, and then drink the rest DURING the workout to aid in other performance nutrition needs as you’ll read below.
Supplementation: While caffeine isn’t necessary for everyone, it can be used to aid in workout performance and give a quick jolt of energy — recent studies say 3 mg for every KG of body weight is a good amount to go off of. For a 200 pound male that’s going to be about 272-275 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of a grande (16 oz) of coffee from Starbucks. Try to use black coffee or espresso vs. the pre-workouts that can leave you incredibly wired and fatigue your adrenals over time.
The next one to try is BCAAs (branch chain amino acids). BCAAs aid in fueling protein synthesis in your muscles – this or adding a small amount of protein as I will discuss below will help your muscles stay fueled throughout your workout.
Nutrition Implementation: Easy to digest carb/fructose sources: Fruit juice, bananas, fruit, high glycemic carbs, (less healthy but convenient: Gatorade). Some people mix their protein with fruit juice or Gatorade into one drink to make this even EASIER to implement, or mix up some fruit with your protein and some water in a smoothie in wala! You are good to go.*Drink ⅓ of your shake before, and sip on the rest during your workout for optimum timing. If it’s hard for you to remember to drink it throughout your workout, go ahead and drink as much as you can before. You may need to create two separate shakes for BEFORE and AFTER your workout.
What your body needs: A mix of carbs and protein (A 4 Carbs to 1 Protein ratio, i.e. 40 grams of carbs to 10 grams of protein, NO fat (fat can slow absorption and make you feel a bit sluggish).
- This combo helps continuously fuel the central nervous system to delay feelings of fatigue and it also mutes catabolism (muscle breakdown), which is a necessary part of the muscle building process IF you have the right nutrition to fuel the rebuilding of muscle. If you don’t have nutrition to help your muscles rebuild after being broken down, this could result in muscle loss and literally the process of your muscles eating away at themselves in an attempt to find a source of stored energy.
Now, this may look a little different depending on how much body weight you begin with. Athletes with lower body weights will have to be more vigilant about making sure they are getting nutrition throughout the workout process to gain the most muscle & performance benefits from their training sessions.
Implementation: If possible, use ⅔ of your shake/drink mixes from your pre workout nutrition. Or you can sip on some BCAAS throughout your workout as well. If drinking something during a workout is too difficult, make sure to be vigilant about your PRE and POST workout shakes and you will still reap a lot of benefits.
For ALL athletes of any shape and size, post workout nutrition is very important.
What your body needs: Carbs/Protein, again NO FATS.
- This helps replenish your glycogen stores
- Decreases catabolism
- Activates muscle growth (anabolism)
Implementation: Try using a high quality iso-whey Protein supplement. If whey is hard on your digestive system (or if you are vegetarian) try other sources like rice protein, (casein if you can handle it), or even just adding a high protein source that you can eat (although you must make sure it doesn’t have a lot of fat in it). Also, ensure you have some fast absorbing carbs, an easy way to do this is to eat a banana or two, sweet potatoes, a protein supplement WITH added carbs, rice wafers/cakes, etc.
- If purely focusing on muscle growth, consider eating MOST of your daily carbs within 6 hours of your workout. This can ensure you have enough carbs to build muscle, and prevent catabolism.
- Save your fats for other meals. FATS, especially after working out DELAY nutrient absorption by a pretty significant amount. If you’re looking to gain the most of your hard work in the gym, save these very important nutrients for later in the day (or earlier) and limit the amount of fat you have around your workout times.
- Nothing RADICAL will happen with perfect timing, the food choices you make throughout the day are MUCH more important (nutrient timing only accounts for about 10-20% of nutrition success). However, if you are a serious athlete and looking to boost your performance, it is a MUST. That 10% can make a huge difference.
**Please message me if you have any questions or feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org). The info provided above is the info we have based on the current athletic research and may not apply to certain medical conditions, and doesn’t replace medical advice. Your body and what works for you may be different depending on a multitude of factors. These are great basic guidelines if you are beginning to get your PRE and POST workout nutrition in check. Always listen to your body and change things up if you need to (i.e. whey protein is not everybody’s friend). Best of luck and happy lifting!