What should I eat to fuel my training?
If you are serious about achieving your health and fitness goals, you are likely disciplined when it comes to your workouts. But to experience real results, your diet is equally as important as your training. In fact, the right diet fuels your training so you can perform better, recover efficiently and optimize your results.
What should I eat pre-workout?
When you fuel your body prior to working out, your muscles have access to the right nutrients to provide energy and body strength. A good pre-workout meal will boost your physical performance: you’ll feel stronger and have more endurance, and you’ll also recover more efficiently post-exercise.
Glycogen is the main fuel source for exercise and our muscles only have limited stores. Consuming glycogen in the form of carbohydrates prior to exercise is necessary to ensure your muscles have access to enough energy, particularly if you are doing high intensity exercise that requires more energy per minute. If you are starting a workout with depleted glycogen stores, you will be fighting against your biology; feeling weak, tired and lethargic throughout your workout, as explored in a Journal of Applied Physiology study.
To ensure your glycogen stores are maximized, consume a carb dense meal prior to exercise. If you’re eating three or more hours prior to your workout, you can consume complex carbohydrates like brown rice because your body will have enough time to break them down. If you are eating only up to an hour prior to exercise, consume a simple carbohydrate with a high glycemic index which is more easily broken down, like a banana.
Protein in a pre-workout meal has also been shown in a study by Baylor University of Texas to improve muscular strength and performance, and in another study to optimize recovery and muscle growth. It’s recommended to consume at least 20 grams of protein at least an hour before exercise, so it has time to be properly digested.
An example of a great pre-workout meal would be a banana and some protein oatmeal, or two slices of toast with peanut butter and a protein shake.
What should I eat post-workout?
When we exercise, our bodies convert glycogen stored in muscles and tissue to glucose, to use as fuel for our workouts. After an intense workout, our body is depleted of glycogen, glycogen that is necessary for muscle growth and repair. Protein and carbohydrates are the key macronutrients for post-workout nutrition: protein provides amino acids to prevent muscle protein breakdown and to initiate synthesis, and carbohydrates replenish depleted glycogen stores.
Combining protein with a carbohydrate source is optimal, because insulin secretion – which is responsible for glycogen synthesis – is better initiated when these macronutrients are consumed together. So essentially, if you eat carbohydrates and protein together post-workout, your glycogen stores are replenished more efficiently and muscle protein breakdown is stopped in its tracks quicker.
The current recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition is to consume 0.14-0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight as soon as possible post-workout. The current recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition is to consume 0.5-0.7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight as soon as possible post-workout. An example of a great post-workout meal would be chicken, rice and broccoli.
So now you know what to eat to fuel your training, recover effectively and reach your fitness goals. Remember: what you eat decides how you perform, so next time you’re at the fridge, pick wisely!