We know most of you girls have a good grasp on the nutrition *basics* — what foods to fuel your body right, + what things to save to #TreatYoSelf. As you continue building on your health + fitness lifestyle, more + more specific questions will come up. Things like what’s the best protein powder? or what’s the deal on artificial sweeteners?
One question we’ve been getting a lot lately is: when + what should I be eating before//after a workout? Pre + post workout nutrition is incredibly important to make sure your body is functioning optimally + that those muscles are growing! However, what we should eat before + after a workout depends on the type + length of our #sweatsesh. We’re not just concerned with building lean muscle — we want to build a body that’s healthy, too! Here are some things you should know when planning your snacks + our favorite pre + post workout eats.
As a general rule – carbohydrates are the most important pre-workout. Muscles use carbs as the first line of fuel. Carbs also give us energy, enabling us to push a little harder during our workouts, giving us a better workout overall. Something you may not know though, is that protein is also important pre-workout, especially when weight training. During strength exercises we are breaking down the muscle in order to make it stronger. However, by eating a small amount of protein before a strength workout, we can help protect the muscles and alleviate post workout soreness.
In our opinion, a pre-workout snack is only necessary when it’s been a couple hours since your last meal, you’re feeling a little low on energy, or you are on a training program for a specific event. It’s best to fuel up with a small snack 15-20 minutes before a cardio workout, or at least 45 minutes before a strength workout [~30-50g carb, ~20g protein]. However, every one of us is different in how our bodies run during a workout — do your own experimenting to find out what works for you in terms of pre-workout nutrition.
Something else to keep in mind in terms of overall diet is that we all have a different ratio at which we burn carbs vs. fat on a daily basis + during workouts. It’s important to balance our meals with adequate amounts of protein, healthy fat, + healthy carbohydrate in order to ensure our bodies are more effective at burning fat.
- Low Fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit
- ½ cup Oatmeal with Fruit
- Apple with 2 tbsp Nut Butter
- 1-2 Eggs + Whole Wheat Toast
- Low Sugar Sports Drink + 1 scoop Aminos
- Eggs + Oatmeal
Post workout nutrition is a little more important in my opinion. What you eat after a workout determines how well + how fast your muscles will heal + grow because the body is primed to accept nutrients during this time. Exercise breaks the muscle down + by repairing it, our muscles get bigger + stronger. What you eat afterward will have a huge impact. Protein + carbohydrate are both important during this time! Carbohydrate is needed to replenish those energy stores + protein is obvi important to pump those muscles. The amounts of these nutrients you need after a workout will differ depending on your goals + current training. The recovery ratio of carbs to protein after a workout is 3:1 or 4:1. Research also supports recovering with ~20 grams of protein post workout. If your goal is fat loss, you should go with the 3:1 ratio for the best results.
You should be eating your post workout snack ASAP after your workout, but definitely within 60 minutes for optimal recovery. As soon as you drop that last dumbbell – grab a snack! Your muscles are primed to accept nutrients + while muscle building can continue for ~48 hours, this window of opportunity is where you’ll see the best results! If it’s dinner time, great! Load up on that protein with some healthy carbs + think about having a high protein snack if you get hungry before bed. This will help those muscles repair better overnight. It’s best to avoid fat in this post workout period, as it slows digestion + takes longer for the protein + carbs to get to the tissues where they’re needed.
- Chocolate Milk [the *perfect post workout drink*]
- Cottage Cheese + Fruit
- Protein Shake [blended with milk]
- Whole Grain Cereal + Milk
- Peanut Butter Toast + Banana Slices
- Almond Butter + Fruit on a Rice Cake
Science has yet to settle which is better — pre or post workout snack. However, something most experts can agree on is that only one of the two is absolutely necessary for normal healthy pursuits. So, unless you’re training for an event or competition — you may actually only need to fuel up once. Experiment + share with us what works for you! Need ideas for a great protein shake? Check out our favorites on the CHAARG blog!
+ Alexa, RD [@lexx_inchaarg], VirtCHAARG from Cincy