I get asked all the time what the best foods are to have pre and post workout. Let me first off say there are no "best foods" for anything, it is all about total daily intake, macro and micro nutrient targets and personal preference. I will however give some guidelines on how to prepare meals that will be most optimal for energy, performance and recovery.
Pre workout nutrition
There are differing views on pre workout nutrition - some say high protein, high fat, and others say high carb and low fat. This is a personal preference and what works for you, experiment with both and see which you perform better at the gym with. I personally perform better with a protein and carb meal pre-training so I would eat things such as egg white oats, rice cakes, greek yogurt, whey protein. The ideal amount will completely vary depending on your size, a 120lb female is going to need to eat significantly less than a 200lb male. You want to eat enough so that you are fuelled for your session but not so full that you fall into a carb coma. Eating your pre workout meal 1-2 hours prior to working out is ideal as it gives the food time to settle a little before you begin your workout.
The goals of PRE workout nutrition are to:
Reduce muscle glycogen depletion.
Reduce muscle protein breakdown.
Reduce post workout cortisol levels.
Sample meal ideas
1. Bagel slim with ham/chicken
2. Oats and whey protein "proats"
3. Chicken and basmati rice
4. Rice cakes and greek yogurt with berries
5. Greek yogurt and granola
post workout nutrition
Post workout nutrition is possibly the most important meal of the day, it should be eaten as soon as convenient in order to aid muscle recovery. There is no ideal window, but most people would be quite hungry after a training session so would want to eat straight away. Don't worry your muscles won't go all catabolic and you won't lose all your gains if you don't get your protein within 2.5 seconds of finishing your workout. Just eat as soon as you can when you finish. A post workout meal should include protein and carbs while fats should be kept to a minimum as they can interfere with protein synthesis. The ideal post workout meal macros will again vary depending on your weight and size, protein could be anywhere between 20-40g and carbs 40-60g; a ratio of roughly 2:1 of carbs to protein which can help replenish glycogen stores and bring protein into the muscle for optimal repair and recovery. It is not a must to have a protein shake post workout, you can opt to get your protein from other sources such as chicken, beef, turkey, or greek yogurt.
The goals of POST workout nutrition are to:
Replenish muscle glycogen levels that were expended during exercise
Reduce muscle protein breakdown caused by training
Increase muscle protein synthesis.
Reduce muscle soreness and fatigue ie. DOMS
Enhance overall recovery.
Reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Sample meal ideas
1. Whey protein shake and a large banana blended into a smoothie
2. Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with honey and a whey protein shake
3. Chicken, sweet potato and asparagus
4. Turkey Mince and sweet potato (can be made into burgers, meat balls or a bolognese sauce)
5. Tuna with pasta
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