Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition: How To Use Food to Fuel and Repair Your Body
If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably heard of a particular topic that can come off a little complex: pre- and post-workout fuel. There are different ways people have explored the topic, which is great -- it means we’re learning new ways to get the most out of our bodies during physical activities. Let’s dive into how we do pre- and post-workout nutrition here at Rowdy!
What Kind of Workouts Are We Talkin’?
Before we get down to nutrition specifics, let’s get clear on what kind of workouts we mean. Working out isn’t just about hitting the weights in the gym or running 9 miles to train for a half-marathon. Your body is exerting energy during high-intensity training, sports games, outdoor activities -- anything that really gets your blood pumping and your body moving. Hiking, cycling, swimming, kayaking, HIIT, weight lifting -- they’re all workouts. The intensity and duration of your workout is what requires different types of fuel.
Now that “workout” is cleared up, let’s talk nutrition.
Fuel and Repair: Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition
Both when and what we feed our bodies directly plays into our physical performance, but optimizing that time and what we eat can be a little tricky to nail down.
There are certainly different opinions surrounding whether you should or shouldn’t feed your body prior to hitting the gym or getting outside for a movement. It’s common to hear that working out in a fasted state helps your body burn fat for fuel. Sounds awesome, right? What’s great about our bodies is that each one of us is different, and we all require different things and function in particular ways -- ultimately, do what makes you feel best.
How Rowdy Fuels Workouts
When we’re out for a hike on a warm, sunny day or working hard up on the slopes during winter, we’re asking our bodies to do a lot of work, be brimming with energy and be full of strength for the duration of our adventure. Our bodies need fuel in order to function properly and be on top of our game.
Eating healthy meals and snacks replenishes the body with glycogen, maintains our blood sugar levels and keeps us feeling great and plunging up the mountain. Timing nutrition is also a biggy. It takes time for your body to process and absorb nutrients. If you eat too big of a meal right before a workout, your body won’t have enough to absorb those nutrients yet, so you’re not getting its energy in time to fuel your workout. So, what are the right things to eat and when do we eat them?
Protein: Feeding Our Performance and Recovery
Healthy, lean proteins affect both our body’s efficiency and it’s recovery process during and after a workout. Protein improves the body’s performance while working hard, improves muscle revival after exercise and increases strength and lean body mass.
- Fuel your body with about 20g of protein 3 hours prior to your workout.
- Feed your muscles with 0.14-0.23g of protein per pound of body weight after your workout, ASAP.
Carbs: The Ultimate Workout Fuel
The body uses the glycogen from carbohydrates for energy, making carbs the ultimate workout fuel. Glycogen is the body’s main source of fuel, especially during short- and high-intensity exercise.
Post-workout carbs are crazy important too. Like we said, your body uses glycogen stores for energy, which means you have to replenish those glycogen stores post-workout.
- Incorporate carbs into your pre-workout nutrition prior to a HIIT workout.
- Eat 0.5-0.7g of carbs per pound of body weight 30 minutes after finishing up a workout.
- Try consuming post-workout carbs and protein in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein).
Does The Body Need Fat Too?
Fat is best for pre-workout fuel and is a great source of energy for longer, moderate-intensity exercise.
- Incorporate healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados or whole eggs) into your diet before taking off on a jog or a trail hike.
- Minimize your fats right after a workout; focus on the carbs and protein your body needs to recover.
Don’t Forget to Hydrate
Although water doesn’t have any caloric value, it helps the body digest food, absorb nutrients and get rid of waste. It’s especially crucial to stay hydrated during exercise because your body loses water and electrolytes through sweat.
- Make sure to always have water with you during a workout and sip on it throughout.
- Don’t wait until you start exercising to drink water. Stay on top of your hydration before your workout (and always, really).
What to Eat for Pre-Workout Fuel
Timing means a lot when it comes to pre-workout fuel. Let your body have enough time to digest and absorb nutrients so you can use that fuel during your workout.
Eat a meal 3 hours before a workout:
- A lean protein sandwich with whole-grain bread
- Egg white protein
- Lean protein with steamed vegetables
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit
Eat a snack 1 hour before a workout:
- A Rowdy Bar
- Greek yogurt and fresh fruit
- A banana, apple or orange
Timing is just as important for post-workout nutrition too, in order for your body to recover properly.
Eat a snack 30 minutes after a workout:
Eat a meal 1 hour after a workout:
- Complex carbs: quinoa, brown rice, cauliflower
- Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts
- Lean protein: tofu, fish, eggs, turkey breast
Fueling your body with nutrients is awesome, just remember that you know your body better than anyone else. Do what’s best for you to stay happy, healthy and energized.
If your body is starving for energy, feed it. Adjust your nutrients before and after your workout based on your energy level and the way your body feels. Don’t forget to hydrate! And always keep your gut healthy with prebiotics and probiotics so your body can properly absorb the nutrients it needs for your workout.