This is a frequent topic that comes up when someone signs up for the first time and they want to know what to eat before and after workouts. There are some general rules and guidelines to follow but I always like to say that being realistic is always the number 1 goal.
If you break it down to the science of the way that our bodies work, there are going to be very few times that your body is in a completely fasted state. You are going to still be absorbing calories (carbs/fats/proteins) from hours ago depending on whatever meals you have ate the night before or the day leading up to your workout. Therefore, it doesn't really matter all that much what you are eating as long as you are accomplishing two goals:
- Efficiency & energy in your workout
- Recovery from your workout
POST WORKOUT MEAL
You hear all the time that you should have the infamous protein shake after a workout. If that is the only variable that you change in your daily routine then quite frankly, all you are doing is adding in additional calories and if you break it down to the cellular level, your body doesn't know the difference and it will be stored just like anything else. This will not help you in your weight loss journey just by adding in a protein shake (quite the opposite). If you have started tracking calories/macros then having a protein shake after a workout is a good option, but I always like to teach people the WHY behind that?
The reason that protein shakes are good is because this is a whey isolate which is a fast acting protein. That means that it is absorbed quicker, and the general rule is that you want to drink this within one hour of working out for recovery. You also want to have a complex carbohydrate during this time to replenish the glycogen stores that you have depleted during your workout. Some examples are sweet potatoes, oatmeal, quinoa, beans, and even whol wheat pasta. So, it's important to recognize that you could also have chicken and sweet potato post workout and it's just as good. There is nothing special and magical about the protein shake post workout.
If you are to align all of the dots in the exact right format for pre and post workout nutrition (and you were already following a macro based approach), the differences that you will see in your weight loss/gains/etc is about 0.5% (with absolutely no scientific research to support that percentage). My point is that sometimes I think we get caught up in rules too much. If you are eating well consistently then you really don't have to worry about all of this. Just make sure you are eating a balanced diet/macro counting on a daily basis and your workouts will be awesome.
The general rule of thumb here is that you want something that is going to give you energy throughout your workout. If you are waking up and immediately working out then it will benefit you to eat something, always. The absorption of your food has already taken place throughout the night and while you still probably have some working it's way through, you want to go ahead and eat. This is going to make your workout so much more effective. You don't want to hold off on food just in order to save calories or something (I hear this a lot) because then your workout is not going to be as effective. If you have a more effective workout then you are going to have a bigger after burn of calories if you had just gone ahead and ate before.
You want to eat a fast digesting carb and a good fast digesting protein before your workout. Some examples of fast digesting carbs are fruit, candy, froyo, Gatorade, fruit juice, or maybe white bread/white potato.
I generally recommend two things:
- Listen to your body
- Plan your meals a little bit around your workout
This shouldn't be something that stresses you out but if you know that you workout after work, then you should plan on having a meal at that time. You shouldn't be trying to have your lunch and make it all the way through your workout on that food. You are not going to have enough quick energy from those carbs, however if you are trying to lose weight you don't want to have to add additional carbs at that time just to be able to get through your workout.
However, you also should listen to your body. As much as we like to break everything down to a science, we were given signals from our Creator that tell us whether we are hungry or craving and my biggest desire is for women (and men) to be able to recognize those signals and eat when hungry and stop when full. Your body will tell you so much more than you could ever dream. If you are not hungry before a workout, don't feel like you have to force food, and same goes for after the workout. If you are on a diet, and you are STARVING then make sure most of your diet is complex carbs and FEED YOURSELF.
Longevity and sustainability and consistency are THE NAME OF THE GAME. If you just get in the groove, then you won't have to worry with all the rules and your body will love homeostasis and provide long standing health and happiness.
Last, but not least, I want to share my latest youtube Vlog from my half ironman! Hope you enjoy!!