We receive a lot of questions about what to eat before, during, and after a workout. But there truly is no, one size fits all, cookie cutter answer. There are multiple variables that go into answering a question like this one:
- When do you workout?
- Are you focusing more on strength or cardio?
- How often do you normally eat?
- Do you normally lose energy half way or part of the way through your workout?
- Do you function better with a full stomach or with a light meal?
All of these factors come into play when one of our members asks me what to eat/ when to eat. The best and simplest advice I can give, comes from Precision Nutrition:
“By eating a healthy, well-considered meal 1-2 hours before exercise, and another healthy, well-considered meal within 1-2 hours after exercise, most people can meet their workout nutrition needs”
That being said, I do have a few tips for those of you who are trying to figure out the best way to fuel your gym time.
- If you workout early in the morning, consider having a small meal/snack to give you enough energy to get through your workout. Afterwards, fuel yourself with a meal replacement shake or a larger breakfast.
- Both endurance and strength athletes will need a combination of protein and carbohydrates for fuel; Protein to build up muscle that has broken down and carbohydrates to restore energy reserves. If you’re focusing heavily on endurance, add in a higher percentage of carbohydrates. If you are focusing heavily on strength, you might feel better adding in a higher percentage of protein.
- There is no correct amount of meals to eat in a day. You may eat 6 smaller meals or you may feel satisfied eating 2-3 larger meals. However, if you find yourself forgetting about meals, skipping meals, only getting in one solid meal in a day, you may want to focus more on overall nutrition and meal management. You may find your energy levels increase with more meals in a days and you feel stronger throughout your workout.
- If you find yourself losing energy part of the way through your workout, I would ask again how often you are eating. If you are not eating often enough, try eating a good meal 1-2 hours beforehand. If you are already doing this, or it is not a realistic option, a drink during your workout may do the trick. BCAAs will help you recover during your workout and provide you with quick energy. If this is not enough, you may want to try drinking a smoothie during your workout. Many individuals find that having something with more sustenance gives them the energy they need to get through a workout feeling strong.
- Some people do not like to workout right after a full meal; others enjoy having a big breakfast or lunch because they feel more fueled. This is purely a matter of preference. As long as you are getting the nutrients you need at some point throughout your day, you do not necessarily need to eat a certain number of time in a day. Test out what makes you feel more energized and do that!
If you want more information and guidance on this topic, or feel that you could be getting more out of your workouts by changing your diet, check out this infographic from Precision Nutrition or ask your coach to sit down with you and create a game plan moving forward.