One of the most important things you can do to help maximize the effectiveness of your workouts is to eat before and after. Your body needs fuel, especially when it is working to build muscle and repair itself. Learning the best pre and post-workout diet and habits will go a long way toward your fitness goals.
1. Don’t Workout On An Empty Stomach
Even if you wake up early in the morning to exercise and you don’t have time for a full meal, get a quick snack in about 30 minutes before you workout. Try eating something simple and healthy, like a piece of fruit or some yogurt. The simple carbohydrates will increase your energy levels during the workout and help you recover faster.
2. Before Your Workout: Carbs and Protein
If you can, try eating a more substantial meal about one to two hours before your workout that includes proteins and complex carbs. The idea is that your body will take a little longer to digest this meal, and you’ll still have immediate access to that energy when it comes time to workout. Try a simple meal pairing a meat (chicken, fish, etc) with some carbs like brown rice.
3. Drink Your Carbs
For longer workouts, you may want to fuel yourself with a liquid meal, like a protein shake or chocolate milk, that you can continue to sip on during your workout. This will provide you with continuous energy throughout your session. Just make sure it is something easily digestible, you don’t upset your stomach while you’re working out.
4. Post-Workout Energy
What you eat after you workout is even more important than what you eat before. In the first hour or so after your training session, your body is in desperate need of energy to help it repair and recover. Providing your body with quality fuel that contains protein and carbs after a workout will reduce your recovery time and fatigue and make you feel better.
5. After Your Workout: Carbs And Protein
You should aim to eat something within 30 minutes after your workout for maximum efficiency. Make sure you’re getting both carbs and protein, so a meal like chicken and rice would be perfect. Of course, just like with your pre-workout meal, a drinkable meal like a protein shake is always a good option.
6. Plan Ahead
You want to make sure no more than an hour passes before you eat, so a little bit of preparation can go a long way. Preparing an extra shake before hand to have ready after your workout is a good idea, as is cooking some extra food and storing it in a portable container. Depending on how long it takes to get back home (or if you’re even going back home) packing a meal in a lunchbox might be your best option. I like to cook several days worth of post-workout meals and store them in portion sized containers.
7. Don’t Be Tempted To Eat Junk
After a workout, your body will crave high energy, sugary foods. That’s because they provide the most efficient burst of energy over a short period of time. Of course, if your post-workout meal consists of soda and candy, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Skip the sweets and fill up on healthy, wholesome carbs and proteins. This is another excellent reason to plan ahead. You won’t be as tempted to eat junk if you have a ready-made meal at your disposal.
8. Don’t Overeat
The food you consume in your pre and post-workout meals should not be extra calories. Instead, they should be a part of your overall daily diet. That means you’re probably going to want to eat several (five to six) smaller meals each day, rather than a few large ones. Never use pre and post-workout nutrition as an excuse to eat more than you should.
9. Make Your Own Shakes
If you want to include protein shakes in your routine, you should make your own. A good protein shake is as simple as whey protein, dextrose, and water. You can even find lots of recipes online. It’s usually better to make your own than to buy a premade one, because you can make yours with the exact amounts of protein you need, and it won’t have any extra chemical ingredients your body doesn’t need.
10. Eat Something You Like
You should always try to make your pre and post-workout meals something you enjoy. There’s no point in choking down something you find disgusting, because it will make you feel ill and negatively affect your workout. Find a combination of foods that is both delicious and nutritious, and your workouts will not only be more enjoyable, but also more effective.