What to Eat Before, During and After Workout

Unlike a car which needs the same fuel to run, our bodily needs are different. When the car’s engine is heated up, it needs either a coolant or water and so does our body (well, only water and no synthetic coolant that is). But our body’s needs are different all the time and it depends which “time” it is. For simplicity, we break our times in three specific zones:

  1. Before Workouts
  2. During Workouts, and
  3. After Workouts

Here are some tips on what to eat before, during and after workout.

But before we proceed ahead, let us read a few inputs from reputed institutions.

Research shows that proper nutrition timing can benefit our muscle recovery, growth, athletic potential and body composition. This means that when you eat certain foods at the right times, you can accomplish your goals faster. That is better because when we exercise or do resistance training, we are aiming at a certain goal.

An important consideration

Research says, it’s not just the pre-exercise meal alone but the meals you eat in the 2 to 3 days before you exercise that fuel your muscles. So it’s important to eat high-energy meals a couple of days before you aim to start your workouts!

This means that it is a disciplinary matter. For proper results, you should plan early and stick to that.

1. A Before Workout Meal

When to eat: 2 hours before exercise
This meal is very vital to ensure that you have plenty of energy for your workouts. Though some people can train without having eaten much beforehand, it’s not ideal condition if you’re looking for maximum performance. It is important to eat something that provides energy.

It is best to empty your bowels before doing anything. There is enough fire in your tummy and whatever you eat is digested quickly and the nutrients are there at the proper place so you can fire.

What to eat: Your before-workout meal should be low glycemic/slow-releasing complex carbohydrates such as oats or sweet potatoes and whey protein. This provides a slow and steady release of energy. Workout stomach cramps are a real bummer. So experiment with the exact timing of this meal and move it forward or back according to your ability to digest food.

Research also shows that users of whey protein prior to training will obtain better results than those using other protein sources (though egg whites also qualify). This is due to the anti-catabolic and anabolic signaling effects of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) present in whey protein—particularly Leucine. Whey has a considerably higher concentration of BCAAs than other proteins.

Recommended: Use Whey Protein Powder for Better Results

Other foods to consider for pre-workout meals

  1. Bananas they’re loaded with easily digestible carbs and potassium (important for muscle and nervous system function)
  2. Fruit and Greek yogurt Thick, sour Greek yogurt is a great source of protein while fruit is full of natural carbohydrates
  3. Oats and whey protein powder Oats contain slow-digesting carbs and whey protein powder contains an awesome amino acid complex to promote muscle growth.
  4. Eggs and whole wheat toast Protein and carbs with one-two teaspoon of fruit jam.
  5. Bananas and whole wheat toast and cinnamon whole-wheat toast with banana gives you both types of carbs that are easy to digest. Complex carbs will keep your motor humming, while the fruit adds an extra kick of energy. Bananas are perfect in raising potassium levels, which drop when you sweat a lot. A dash of cinnamon is linked to stabilizing blood sugar and improving brain function as well.

You can as well think on those lines and arrange some great tasting pre-workout meals.

As your workout time nears, you should focus on the pre-workout snacks as detailed below.

2. Before-Workout Snack

When to eat: 15 to 30 minutes before exercise
If you have a gruelling workout planned, you can top up your energy levels by eating or drinking a fast-acting, high-energy pre-workout smoothie, just before starting your workout. This is a good strategy for early morning exercisers.

A few before-workout recipes with high glycemic index

  1. Banana Yoyo Drink

4-5 strawberries
1 medium banana
100 ml thick greek yoghurt (Dahi)
1 tablespoon honey

Blend all the ingredients together till a smooth consistency is obtained.

  1. Mango Delicious

100 ml ripe mango puree
1 small banana
1 small cup vanilla ice cream
25 ml thick cream
1 tablespoon honey

Blend all the ingredients together till a smooth consistency is obtained.

What to eat: A ripe banana, a pre-workout smoothie or sports drink are ideally suited for this task.

3. During Workout Snack

If your resistance training is less than an hour, you will only need either plain water or some energy drink with glucose and salts. You don’t need anything extra as excess calories are not needed at this time. The sports drink will help if you are sweating and the salts therein will compensate for the loss.

After 45 minutes of your resistance training, say at the half-way mark, you should drink Extend BCAA as the amino acids will ensure the muscles are taken care of adequately.

What to eat: The easily digested carbs work better. Dry fruits, small bananas, or small energy bars are all good choices for very long endurance workouts.

Recommended: 101% Effective Intra-Workout Supplements for Instant Energy

4. Your After Workout Snack

When: As soon as your workout is over.

After workout, your muscles are desperate to be re-nourished. Food consumed at this time will be shunted directly into your muscles to replace what you have used during the workout. Fast acting carbs and protein consumed immediately after exercise will help ensure your muscles get exactly what they need to kick start the recovery process, replenish energy stores.

What to eat or drink: One of the most efficient ways to get your calories is in the form of BCAA protein shakes or homemade healthy smoothies. Shoot for a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein and try to consume it either during or immediately after your cool-down.

Recommended: Post Workout Supplements for Fast Recovery

5. Choosing Your After Workout Meal

When to eat: Just 2 hours after exercise

Your first proper post-exercise meal should be the biggest meal of your day. Your body will make use of most of the nutritional content of this meal to repair and recover from the preceding workout. You are what you eat – you should make this, and every other meal you eat, as healthy as possible.

What to eat: Plenty of fresh vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats plus some complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, oats, Greek Yoghurt is the order of the day.

This concludes the eating schedule. The best part is to keep varying the menu and arouse your body’s interest and keep it guessing.

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