Everyone should know by now that nutrition is one of the pillars of health, along with physical activity and sleep. What you eat has a huge impact on how you feel, but also on your performance & progress – and it’s especially true for pre and post-workout meals.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand how your body works, and what it needs – Let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t eat before working out, so you get the most benefits from your session.
Quick recap: Nutrition 101
The human body needs 3 different macronutrients: proteins, carbs (carbohydrates) & lipids (fats). Each macronutrient plays a different role:
- proteins are used for muscle mass maintenance and growth, but are also used to maintain and repair cells
- carbohydrates are used as main energy source
- lipids are used for hormone balance & cells maintenance (but they can be used as an energy source as well)
Before a workout, your body needs one thing: energy.
Sounds simple, right? One of the most important things to consider though, is how much time do you have before your workout:
If you have 1:30hrs to 2hrs before your session starts
You can get a balanced meal, based on slow-digesting carbs (wholemeal pasta, rice, bread..) & lean protein (eggs, turkey ham, tuna…).
Avoid eating too much fat or spices, as it could disturb your digestion cycle (which wouldn’t be great during your workout).
If your workout starts in 30 – 60min
You might need to consider a lighter option – go for something easy to digest, and that can provide energy quickly – a fruit or a cereal bar, for example. Nothing too fancy or made with too many different ingredients. The simpler, the better!
Keep in mind that if you keep training for an extended time, you’ll run out of energy eventually. Your energy storage usually lasts 75-90min – Would you be willing to keep going longer, you’ll need to refuel, with an energy gel or bar: aim to get at least 30 to 60g of carbs for each hour of training/running. If you’re a runner, it means that you’ll need to bring some snacks with you and if you’re a gym rat, make sure you take breaks to get your energy levels back up.
Should I also eat proteins before/during a workout?
Nope, you don’t have to. During a workout, your body won’t be able to process protein, and therefore, won’t use it to repair your muscles during the session. It isn’t able to store them for later either, so it will merely get rid of them.
However, you’ll NEED them after your workout, in order to recover. Save the protein bars & shakes for your post-workout snack!
Can I do fasted training/running?
You can, especially if you’re used to it. However, it means your body won’t use glucose and rely on fat consumption instead. If it sounds like a great thing when you’re trying to lose weight, you have to keep in mind that it means lower energy levels – To go on a light jog, it’s perfectly fine, but if the plan is to do weight lifting or HIIT, then you should definitely consider getting at least a high-carb snack before you go.