Timing your meals around your training schedule can help you maximize your effort. The type of food you choose before your workout will depend on how long and how intense your session will be, while post-workout meals are fairly straightforward.
However, there are a few basic tips to help steer you in the right direction.
The key with pre-workout meals is to avoid consuming anything too heavy and hard to digest immediately before your workout. The best meal is one that is timed 30-90 minutes before your workout and includes a mix of protein and carbohydrates.
Some pre-workout protein sources are chicken breast, turkey, whey protein shake, a protein bar, or egg whites. The carbohydrates you choose before a workout will depend on how long you have to digest. If you have enough time, complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grains will provide a good source of energy to help you power through your session. However, if you are closing in on a workout with limited time to spare, opt for fast-digesting, simple carbohydrates like a piece of fruit, white toast, or granola for immediate fuel.
Post-workout is when your muscles are in need of nutrients to help them recover and rebuild. A good rule of thumb is to consume a meal within 30-60 minutes of completing your workout. This is the time when the body can quickly absorb fast-acting protein like Whey protein powder as well as fast-digesting, simple carbs like white rice, pasta, cereal, bread and potatoes. Your muscles are hungry for nutrients and a fast-digesting, high protein/high simple carb meal is most effective for replenishment.
Some foods to avoid directly before and after your workouts are those that are high in fat. Fats such as olive oil, nuts, nut butters, and avocados are all healthy, however eating them right before and directly after a workout will slow down the absorption of protein and carbs—something you want to prevent when you’re trying to pump nutrients into your muscles as fast as possible.
While you might not want to eat fats immediately before or after your workout, you still need healthy fats in your diet. So make sure to include a moderate serving of fat during other times of the day!
Pre/Post Sample MealsHere are three examples of before and after workout meals:
- Before workout meal: Whole grain toast with peanut butter, a banana, protein shake
- After workout meal: Grilled chicken breast with rice and steamed vegetables
- Before workout meal: Greek yogurt with berries and a handful of almonds
- After workout meal: Baked salmon with sweet potato and roasted asparagus
- Before workout meal: Whole grain oatmeal with protein powder, almond milk, and a serving of fruit
- After workout meal: Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole grain bread with avocado and mixed greens
Note: This is just a sample of what your pre and post workout meals could look like, you don’t need to eat these exact items. The portion sizes and food choices for your pre- and post-workout meals should reflect your individual goals and nutritional needs.