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"Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition "
by Drew Edmonds
As personal trainers, my wife and I are often bombarded with questions about nutrition. Perhaps one of the most often asked questions we hear is, “What should I eat before and after my workouts to make my time in the gym truly pay off?” With the help of our consulting RD’s we attempt to arm these clients with current and powerful information that will enhance the effect of each and every workout.
What you put in your body before and after your trip to the gym is essential for muscle growth and recovery. If you neglect this, if you forget to eat before or succumb to that desire to sink into your favorite chair for a couple of hours after your workout, you are cheating yourself out of key muscle gains.
A number of studies have found that a post-workout meal containing carbohydrates and protein increases protein synthesis dramatically. The two work synergistically to create a muscle building environment that is superior to either macronutrient alone. In addition, new research suggests that a pre-workout meal may be superior to its post-workout counterpart, while consuming pre and post will yield maximum results!
The goal of the pre-workout meal is to prepare your body for the assault you are about to put it through. It should include both carbohydrates and protein, as they are the key sources of energy and amino acids (the building blocks of muscle tissue). These macronutrients should be consumed 60 to 90 minutes prior to the workout to allow for proper digestion and availability for use during exercise.
An ideal pre-workout nutrition plan will be one that can supply quick energy sources, mostly low glycemic index carbohydrates, that can preserve your energy reserves, and provide added blood flow to the muscle tissue. Examples are yams, whole grain bread, and bananas.
High glycemic index carbohydrates are what you need to avoid before and intense workout. They are rapidly released in your bloodstream, therefore your body will release a surge of insulin to level out your blood sugar levels. This results in a quick rise of energy, followed by a quick fall. You will be left tired and weak, which is the last thing you want to happen during an intense workout. Examples are potatoes, white breads, and watermelon.
Many people focus on protein intake after workout. They are not wrong in doing this, however it is incorrect to assume that protein is not needed before the workout. Studies have shown that protein made available to the body prior to a workout will be more easily taken up by the muscle tissue. This protein uptake will provide the amino acids necessary for maximum muscle growth.
To truly reap maximum benefit out of each and every workout, you must effectively stress the muscle tissue to break it down. Sounds painful, doesn’t it? When you place this “stress” on the muscle through exercise, you are essentially causing micro-tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. This is why you are sore after a challenging workout. These tears, however, will force the muscle tissue to rebuild and grow stronger!
Without proper post-workout nutrition, the muscles may not have the resources to properly recover and rebuild after the trauma caused by the exercise. With a rapid introduction of carbohydrates and proteins after the workout, the body is able to begin reparations on damaged tissue and replenish fuel reserves. Studies have shown that time is truly of the essence. The sooner you consume these macronutrients the less muscle you will lose and the more quickly you will start building new muscle. For the best results, eat within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise, when your muscles are most receptive.
All forms of exercise use carbohydrates to produce energy, so depletion of muscle carbohydrate stores is inevitable after a workout. For this reason, it is vital to enjoy a post workout meal which is high in carbohydrates. This high carbohydrate meal will help to put back the carbohydrates the workout has depleted.
Not just any amount of carbohydrates will do, however. It is important to consume sufficient quantities of carbohydrates to produce the insulin needed to shuttle those carbohydrates and amino acids to the muscles where they are needed. High carbohydrate consumption will produce the insulin release needed to promote glycogen storage, repair damaged muscles, and promote muscle growth.
Additionally, if you don’t get enough high quality carbohydrates within 60 minutes post-workout then your glycogen stores will not be at their optimal level next time you workout. This means that you won’t have maximum energy, and may feel drained the next time you are exercising.
Muscle protein is degraded during exercise; therefore, the addition of a relatively larger amount of protein to your post-exercise meal is necessary to help rebuild the structural aspects of the muscle. After exercise, the body decreases its rate of protein synthesis and increases its rate of protein breakdown. However, the provision of protein and amino acid solutions has been shown to reverse this trend, increasing protein synthesis and decreasing protein breakdown.
So how much carbohydrate and protein should you include in your post-workout nutrition? Most sports nutritionists recommend 0.8g of carbohydrate per 1 kilogram of body weight and anywhere from 0.2g – 0.4g of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight. To convert your body weight to kilograms, divide your total weight by 2.2.
Many fitness enthusiasts will opt for a post workout drink, rather than whole foods. Several reasons can be attributed to this. First, exercise can often zap your appetite. Thus, a drink may be more appealing to you than whole foods. Second, liquid supplements are absorbed faster than whole foods, which must convenient and easy to prepare. Seek advice from a licensed sports nutritionist in deciding which option will work best for you!
An article about pre and post-exercise nutrition wouldn’t be complete without mentioning fluid replacement. A key to successful workouts is keeping well hydrated before, during, and after exercise. The length of your workouts, heat, humidity, and the amount you sweat are all major considerations for keeping your body in proper fluid balance. Without proper hydration, muscles will fail to grow, your metabolism will slow, and you run the risk of heat-related illnesses. Remember to drink before you get thirsty! Thirst does not occur until you are already dehydrated.
Nutrition is an important part of any exercise program. In conjunction to intense exercise, you must eat a balance of carbohydrates and proteins to reach your genetic potential! Remember, what you eat before and after your workouts has a huge effect on not only how you feel and perform during a workout, but also how you recover and grow afterwards.
The 10 Must-Have Pre-Workout Foods:
The 10 Must Have Post-Workout Foods:
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