Consistently showing up to the gym is half the battle to transform your body and life. But as you keep coming back and challenging yourself over and over again, how you prepare and recover from that battle becomes increasingly important.
To maximize every workout, you'll need to think of food as energy, and imagine yourself as something like a high-performance vehicle. In order to maximize the power of your inner Lamborghini, you need fill your tank with high-quality fuel.
However, nutrition doesn't stop here. After you burn the fuel, it's important to replenish it. This will ensure you're as close as possible to 100 percent for the next round. Here's your quick-and-not-so-dirty guide to proper pre- and post-workout nutrition!
The pre-workout meal needs to provide you with the fuel and fluids to perform at your best. It can also help to minimize muscle damage, meaning less soreness and quicker recovery.
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all pre-workout meal, because digestion is highly individualized. Ideally, however, you'll want to consume a solid pre-workout meal 2-3 hours beforehand. However, we both know this isn't always possible, so let's discuss multiple options.
Pre-workout meals (2-3 hours before)
- Lean ham and cheese on whole-grain tortilla with spinach, sliced tomatoes and peppers
- Ground turkey and sweet-potato hash
- Grilled fish tacos with a side of whole-grain crackers
- "Proats": oatmeal, protein, and fruit
However, since it will have been quite some time since your last meal as you head to the gym, consider adding a small, quick-digesting carbohydrate 10-15 minutes prior, to top off your energy stores. Pretzels, dried fruit, or low-fiber granola bars work well.
If you have to push your pre-workout meal closer to training time, consume less fiber so that you have time to digest appropriately—remember that fiber slows down digestion. That's when these kinds of meals are more appropriate:
Pre-workout meals (60 minutes before)
- Whey protein shake, rice cakes, honey
- Chocolate protein pancakes
- Low-fat Greek yogurt and granola
- Jerky and an apple
Of course, whether it's an off day or a training day, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids throughout—but especially as your workout approaches. A dehydrated muscle is a weak muscle!
During your workout, muscle damage occurs, carbohydrates are burned as fuel, and water is lost in sweat. The solution: Refuel with protein, carbohydrates, and fluids!
A lean protein source is ideal for your post-workout meal, since a fatty one will slow down digestion. This is perhaps the best time to enjoy a protein shake, because it's easy to consume even if you're not hungry after training. However, don't feel limited to the powder. Chicken and turkey breast, deli meat, meats such as pork tenderloin, and egg whites are also great options.
Unless you have another exercise session in less than eight hours, there's no need to go overboard on copious amounts of high-sugar carbohydrates such as candies, cookies, and cereals. Consuming adequate carbohydrates like oatmeal or sweet potatoes in the next 24 hours will ready you for your next workout.
Depending on when you train, your post-workout nutrition can be as simple as a protein shake and bowl of cereal as a quick snack, or, it can fall right into your normal meal schedule, serving a dual role as post-workout nutrition and dinner.
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