Whether you’re looking to build muscle or lose fat your nutrition needs to be on point throughout the day. However, specifically before and after a workout you need to make sure you are eating the right sorts of things to maximise results. It really is at these two points, before and after your workout, that your nutrition will have more of a direct impact on your results.
It’s quite simple to explain the significance of both of these meals – what you eat pre-workout is going to directly affect your performance in the following session. Whereas the food you consume after your workout will influence your recovery. Let’s not forget that these are two components that will drastically affect your success – how much work you do, and how well you recover. After all, it is during the recovery stage in your muscles when they will begin to grow.
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as just making a list of good foods and bad foods because different foods will support different targets. So if you are trying to lose fat your ideal nutrition might be completely different to somebody else who is building muscle. Either way it is important to visualise your nutrition as the foundation for your success. It might seem a little cliché now but if you have poor foundations you won’t be able to support everything else above it effectively.
Now I want to talk about your macronutrients to make sure which ones you need around a workout. Carbs often play second fiddle to proteins when people talk about pre and post workouts, simply because proteins are more commonly associated with muscle growth. But carbs offer the body its easiest way of getting energy. So people might say not to have carbs at a certain time of the day, but in reality your nutrition shouldn’t dictated by the clock, it should be determined based on when you are working out.
It’s simple – before a workout you need energy, without it your performance in the gym won’t be as strong. You need to be having carbs around your workouts so that you give your body the best chance it has at developing. So things such as porridge oats and rice both make ideal foods that you should consider eating pre-workout.
Now all of you who are cutting are thinking: “no way is that going to happen”, right? Well you can still cycle bulking and cutting without cutting out carbs. The idea is that in the cutting phase you eat less carbs, not cut them out completely. This means that you might have to up the carbs you eat regularly though, just so you are still getting enough when you start to cut.
What about protein then? Our bodies use protein to build muscle, simple as that. The thing about it is that your body needs to have sufficient levels of protein throughout the day and in particular around workout times. Why? Well if your body goes into starvation mode it’ll start to break down your muscles to get some energy which is not what you want.
The classic protein pre-workout will be a protein shake. In fact you can look to have maybe 2-4 shakes per day and all will have an impact. Of course this isn’t your only option, you might want to think about an omelette or a lean meat.
Having protein post-workout is far more important though. The micro trauma that has broke down the muscle fibres will start to recover straight away. So make sure you are getting high quality protein down you as soon as you can after a workout. Hopefully you will start to saturate your biological stores, providing more than enough of the nutrients that your body requires.
All-in-all it comes down to the quality of your nutrition. As long as you are eating lean proteins with as little fat as possible and complex carbohydrates coming from whole grains you won’t be going far wrong. Yes of course there are other things you need to be eating throughout the day, for example fats. It’s this combination of quality proteins and complex carbs that is the important thing to remember, both before and after your workouts.