Pre workout nutrition is anything that you eat prior to your work out. It includes real food as well as any supplements you might want to take. Its job is simply to give you enough energy for your training session. If you train in the afternoon or evening, you’ll probably have taken care of this through your normal daily eating.
Post workout nutrition is anything that you eat after you finish your work out. It could include a proper meal, or any convenient sources of protein or supplementation you choose to take. You may take care of those through your normal daily eating, or if you train at night, you might prefer to wait until breakfast tomorrow.
Do I Need Protein Immediately After Finishing A Workout?
The “anabolic window” which is sometimes reported to be as brief as 20 minutes refers to the period of time after the workout finishes. Traditionally, it has been considered optimal to have a protein shake after working out. The purpose is to replenishing glycogen and to stop the body using muscle as fuel.
In fact, the body would have to be fasted for about 72 hours for it to start using muscle as a fuel source. It makes no metabolic sense for your body to do this. Once your glycogen is used up (after an intense weights session, or following some endurance style exercise), the body will use body fat for fuel.
The window in which you should eat is actually more like 2 to 6 hours – so for most of us, training normally and eating normally is fine. No special workout nutrition needed. This might differ for athletes doing mega endurance events who might benefit from an intra workout hit of glucose like energy gels during a marathon, or doing a double day: training twice in the course of one day.
How much protein is best?
It’s though that around 20 to 40g of protein in the hour before and after you train is great. If you’re a smaller person, go towards the lower end of the scale. Whey protein sits lightly on the stomach, and unless you’re avoiding milk products it’ll be convenient, cheap and comfortable.
What about carbs and fats?
This mostly comes down to personal preference, particularly in a calorie deficit when the goal is weight loss.
Making a choice about carbs comes down to whether you want quicker or slower releasing carbs. That depends when you’re eating compared with when you’re training.
Training within 30-45 minutes? Stick with something fast, like a banana. Your insulin levels will be spiked by anything you eat, including protein so you don’t need anything special for that. Carbs after you train can feel like a nice treat – some oats in your whey protein, or a piece of fruit after you’re finished can really pick your energy levels up nicely.
Fats are also personal preference, but anything that you eat with the fats will be slowed in digesting to the rate that your body digests the fat. That’s why higher fat meals make you feel fuller for longer.
Everyone’s body is different. If you feel like a high fat meal makes you sluggish pre-training, you may prefer to save that spoonful of peanut butter for the post workout shake or rice cake.
Keep an open mind about experimenting and remember that we’re only talking about food – you don’t need to buying anything fancy or expensive!