“Isn’t it post-workout nutrition?” is a question that may have crossed your mind while reading this article’s title. It’s okay, I understand that pre-and post workout meals are more mainstream and usually discussed among gym bros. However, peri workout nutrition is a fancy expression that refers to pre, intra and post workout meals/beverages. Peri workout nutrition has been one of the hotly debated topics in the fitness industry during recent years. In fact, most, if not all, supplement companies have created products that specifically target that dietary component. We’ve seen studies supporting extra benefits with ingestion of meals or supplements pre, intra and post workout meals and we’ve also seen studies that have concluded the complete opposite.
Strong research seems to be against supplement companies. Going into extensive scientific detail won’t be necessary since Alan Aragon has already covered this very specific topic in his research review, which you should invest in by the way! It’s only $10 a month, people. And you get the latest scientific no B.S. fitness related information. I will cover a bit of this topic in the next article, though.
For now, should you still time your meals around your workouts? Yes. But, not to the extreme level supplement companies want you to believe. However, you will do perfectly fine if you stick to the guidelines portrayed in this article.
When all is said and done, hitting your calories, protein, dietary fat and carbohydrates every day should be your ultimate goal. That is what matters most.
Pre-workout meals: what should I before training?
Let’s establish something first; you don’t have to immediately eat anything before hitting the gym. Ironically, eating a bit before will be more beneficial to your performance and body composition goals. You will also feel much better. Give the food you ate a bit of time to be digested, otherwise you may experience nausea which could affect your performance.
Eat your pre-workout meal 1-3 hours before you hit the gym.
The above rule is what you should adhere by. Eating 1-3 hours before you go to the gym will guarantee that most of the food you ate will have been digested, you will have an abundance of nutrients and macronutrients in your blood stream at your body’s disposal to utilize or maximum muscle gains and fat loss. You will also almost guarantee maximum performance at the gym since you will have tons of energy from your pre-workout meal.
As far as what exactly to eat, sticking to the guidelines discussed throughout this guide will be more than enough. However, to refresh your memory, you want to consume an adequate amount of protein roughly around 40 grams, thus also depends on your personal protein requirements and how you split up your macros and calories throughout the day. This will also be affected by your meal frequency. But for most people of average weight, 35-45 grams of protein is perfect. As far as carbohydrates, you can consume about 30-40 grams of complex fibrous carbs to slow down digestion of everything you consume during your pre-workout meal and thus provide you with gradual sustained level of energy for the next few hours. Dietary fiber slows down digestion and controls insulin levels. Complex carbs are also digested slower than simple carbs as previously discussed here. This will result in slower gradual release of glucose into your blood stream which is also beneficial for energy levels and performance. As far as fat, it depends on your personal preference. Dietary fat also slows down digestion of carbohydrate. But generally, play around with this. The most important thing is to get an adequate amount of protein! This cannot be stressed enough.
So, an ideal pre-workout meal may look like this: (quantities won’t be specified for obvious reasons)
Vegetables / salad
Eggs / egg whites or some chicken
That’s it for your pre-workout meal. Don’t overthink it and focus on hitting your daily caloric and macronutrient requirements throughout the day.
Intra workout “meal”/beverage
In comparison to pre-and post workout meals, intra workout beverages have been the most debated component of peri workout nutrition in the fitness realm. This has been accompanied with almost all supplement companies formulating their own intra-carb product because who is really going to take a meal with him to the gym and eat during his training session? Thus, a convenient and delicious “super” meal replacement is a much better alternative, right? Alleged claims are greater recovery due to faster glycogen replenishment within the muscles, better nutrient partitioning due to the insulin spike simple carbs provide and better performance. Is this true? Yes and no, but not in the way you think.
Will you experience improved results if you consume an intra-carb meal/beverage? Yes, ONLY IF you deprived your body from food for some time. So, if you fast for 12 hours prior to your workout session and skip your meals prior to the gym, your body will obviously be thankful for some nutrients and calories. However, under normal circumstances, an intra-workout meal/drink won’t provide any additional benefits. The only benefit you may get is improved performance due to ingestion of simple carbohydrates. And even this won’t always be true in the case of carb intolerant individuals. But, for most people, consuming some simple carbs that get converted into energy quickly will provide you with elevated and sustained levels of energy throughout your gym session which will improve your performance and thus indirectly help with your muscle building or fat loss endeavors.
Thus, if you want the potential additional benefit of improving your energy levels and performance, simply eat some simple carbs while training or sip on a simple carb drink. But, the whole concept of intra-workout meals is useless.
“You must spike your insulin and get some protein and simple carbs right after you train or you will lose out on your gains BRO!!!!!” Sounds familiar? Next time a gym rat tells you that you need to immediately consume a meal/shake after your training session, feel free to slap him (I don’t advocate violence, though 🙂 ). All jokes aside, simply put, you don’t need to consume anything immediately after your training session IF you had a good pre-workout meal.
So, if you eat a well-structured pre-workout meal, running to the kitchen after your training session won’t be necessary.
You can have your post-workout meal approximately 1-3 hours after your training session.
Once again, this is based on the idea that you didn’t skip out on your pre-workout meal. As a rule of thumb, you want to squeeze in your training session between your pre-and post workout meals. This usually translates into a 6 hours’ window. So, if you have your pre-workout meal at 3pm, hit the gym at 4pm and finish at 6pm, you can choose not to eat until 8-9pm without sabotaging your gains. Your muscles won’t fall off, don’t worry.
So, what should I have in my post workout meal?
Post-workout meal’s guidelines are not very different from pre-workout meals’ guidelines. However, you can refer to the following numbers if you wish:
Protein – 35-50 grams.
Carbohydrates – 40-60 grams or personal preference.
Fat – 10-20 grams or personal preference.
What matters most is consuming an adequate amount of protein to support optimal protein synthesis rate.
The topic of peri workout nutrition is excessively debated and emphasized. This is not to say that peri workout nutrition is useless, but strict and inconvenient “timing” is not really sustainable for most people due to different lifestyles and it doesn’t really provide any additional benefit under normal feeding circumstances. The next step will be to discuss the assumed “anabolic window” and how it was the basis of peri workout nutrition and whether such a window exists or not.