PRE & POST Workout Nutrition
When it comes to exercise, the last mindset you want to be in is that “eat as little as possible while moving as much as possible.”
Food is what the body uses to recover but also to transform. So whether you’re trying to lose excess weight, gain muscle or transition fat into muscle, the body needs to have the fuel to do so. While we are not talking about training for a competition today, this post is about the average person who exercises 3-5 times per week at an intermediate intensity.
The intensity (and type) of the workout makes a difference on whether you need to eat more or less, and what specifically you should eat.
Lower intensity programs like Yoga or a low-impact class may not require you to do anything specific.
High impact, high intensity, super sweaty or very intense weight training programs may require you to eat in order to do one or more of the following: avoid injury, allow for strength/muscle building, replenish lost nutrients, provide you energy for the remainder of your day.
Generally speaking, you don’t need to do too much to adjust for pre- or post-workout nutrition.
BEFORE Your Workout
This is going to majorly depend on when you workout and what kind of workout you’re doing. Many people who exercise first thing in the morning prefer just some coffee or tea along with water for the workout. This is totally fine IF (that’s BIG if) you can perform the workout without feeling completely exhausted. Eating before an early workout can also make you feel nauseated during the workout so you will have to play around with what will work best for you. Others may be working out later in the day after a meal, or just before a meal. Let’s break down the options.
Early Morning Pre-Workout Ideas
- Coffee/Tea/Water only – this is considered a fasted workout and is fine if you need energized and capable in your morning workout. Not ideal for those who are intensely strength training for muscle mass
- Banana, toast – this is a fast-digesting carbohydrate that will digest quickly and will provide you with some energy to perform well in the workout
Between Meal Pre-Workouts
When you work out between meals, it is all about timing. If you have a large enough meal before or you are exercising a perfect amount of time after, you can let that meal (maybe breakfast for example) be your pre-workout meal. This meal should have included a well-rounded plate – like any normal meal – made from mostly whole foods, focusing on proteins, carbohydrates and some fats.
Let’s say you’re farther away from your last meal & closer to a meal you’ll have after your workout? Follow the same recommendations from the early morning suggestion. If you’re too hungry or haven’t eaten enough in order to feel like you’ll be energized grab a quicker digesting carbohydrate like a fruit or snack about 30 minutes before your workout session.
The goal is to PERFORM at your BEST, so eat if it will help you perform better in your workout!
AFTER Your Workout
Post-workout nutrition gets a lot of attention, mostly because… protein shakes are a HIT! You can decide whether you need a specific post-workout meal below..
Fasted workout enthusiasts should consider eating ASAP, so should those of you who maybe ate a full meal but it was 3-4 hours before the workout. This might mean that the after workout meal is just simply the next meal you would have. Let’s say you ate breakfast at 7am, and you did a 12pm workout, you would have had lunch anyways, which can also be your post-workout meal.
If you’re working out AFTER your typical last meal of the day, it is recommended that you have a quick small post-workout meal like a protein shake or yoghurt with berries and honey.
Any meal you eat after a workout should be focused on proteins and carbohydrates of some source.
Finally, if you feel like you need food after you workout – eat it!
Ultimately it isn’t about exactly what or how much but instead that you’re feeling good, safe, uninjured and energized before and after your workouts. Focus primarily on whole, natural foods that are unprocessed as often as possible in every meal!