The Fit 5: Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition


For all of our fans who shoot us questions on our Facebook Page, this one is for you. Each week, we will tap into our pool of editors and experts to help with any questions or challenges you are having with your fitness regimen. This week, Marc Perry, C.S.C.S., ACE-CPT, and founder of Built Lean answers questions about how to improve your physique and maximize your performance through optimal pre- and post-workout nutrition.

1) Pre-Workout Carb Timing — asked by Guy Carpenter How soon before a workout should I eat carbs to get the most benefit?
“There is no specific formula for when carbs should be ingested to maximize performance. If you feel your energy levels slipping within 1-2 hours of a workout, or during a workout, simple carbohydrates (30 grams) such as a handful of fruit 30 minutes before a workout may give you that extra push and stimulate insulin to counteract cortisol (the hormone that can break down muscle). Another option is drinking half of a protein shake with a 2:1 carb-to-protein ratio 30 minutes before your workout and finishing it off right after your workout. A third option is having a meal high in complex carbs like oatmeal or yams within a couple hours of your workout.”
2) Pre-Workout Meal Timing — asked by Ronald Marin How long before a workout should you eat to be the most effective and easy on stomach?
“It depends on (1) the timing and size of the meal, or snack before your workout, (2) the specific foods you eat, and (3) your fitness goals. Because fat takes the longest to digest, followed by protein, then carbs, it’s best to have a pre-workout meal that is relatively low in fat, moderate protein and moderate to high in low fiber carbs. If you have a sensitive stomach and are trying to lose fat, a small meal of around 500-600 calories around 2-3 hours before a workout should work well. Alternatively, you can try a smaller snack like some fruit within 30-60 minutes of your workout if it has been several hours since your last meal. You should experiment with different foods and timing to see what suits your individual needs.”
3) Nutrition for Morning Workouts — asked by Jeff Walsdorf I workout super early. What and when is the best time to eat for energy in the morning?
“If you have 30 minutes from when you get up to until when you workout, simple carbs like a banana, apple or yogurt can be helpful. The challenge is that exercising on an empty stomach can make the workout seem harder without providing any fat loss benefit. If you have no time to eat before a workout and experience low energy levels during the workout, a sports drink or carbohydrate gel could do the trick. If you will be lifting heavy weights, combine the sports drink with five grams of BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown and improve recovery.”
4) “Window of Opportunity” — asked by Matt Kelley Is there really a window of opportunity to eat and reap the most benefits?
“Research suggests there is a window of opportunity, which lasts up to one hour after a workout. In fact, some studies have showed that participants who consumed protein immediately after their workout versus a placebo gained ‘significantly’ more muscle size and strength than those who consumed it two hours removed from their workout. Physiologically speaking, after a workout, muscles are damaged, depleted and biochemically primed for nutrient uptake. Ingesting a roughly 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein with 20-30 grams coming from protein can help replenish glycogen stores and shuttle protein into muscle for optimal repair and recovery.”
5) Protein Shakes vs. Milk — asked by Sam Stevens What’s the difference between costly whey protein and a big glass of milk to get my 20g of protein post-training?
“The biggest difference is the speed with which the protein and carbs in milk are absorbed by the body. Milk protein is primarily comprised of slow releasing casein, which takes up to seven hours for the body to absorb. Whey protein powder, on the other hand, takes as little as 20-30 minutes for the body to absorb. For every gram of protein, milk has 1.5 grams of carbs in the form of lactose, which is slower releasing than a simple carb like dextrose for example. While milk can certainly be beneficial post workout, to maximize the window of opportunity after a workout, whey protein and a fast absorbing carbohydrate is your best bet in a 2:1 ratio.”

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