Pre and Post Workout Meal Tips

Oct 13, 2017 | Nutrition & Wellness

Woman drinking a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice after a workout

By Bill Daniels, Elite Personal Trainer at Renaissance ClubSport Walnut Creek

The 1-2 hours before you work out is a great time to get your body geared up for the physical stress you’re about to put it through. Pre-workout meals are an often overlooked and underutilized method to get the best results from your workout.

There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, so it can seem very difficult to know what is or isn’t true, what will or won’t work, and what you should or shouldn’t do to be healthier. To make the right decisions, you need to understand what your goals are and how exercise and nutrition can affect your body and your performance. Nutrient timing is very important and can differ from person to person based on goals, body type, and other physiological factors. However, there are a few basic principles anyone can follow.

pre tipsThe first is quality foods. Stay away from anything processed. Whole food is the best source of quality carbohydrates, which will supply energy to your body and balance blood sugar. The rate at which glucose appears in the blood is directly related to the speed of digestion and absorption of the ingested carbohydrate source. This includes lower glycemic foods such as berries, apples, and green vegetables. Basically, this means that your blood sugar won’t spike and then inevitably crash, leaving you feeling tired and weak. A good starting point is to consume 130 grams of carbs per day, but some people do well with as few as 50 grams per day.

The second is fat. Fat gets a bad rap, but it’s vital for organ health as well as many other functions of the body and can help you feel satiated during your workout. You don’t need a lot — just 5-30% of your calories should be from fat. Keep in mind that there are several kinds of fat: monounsaturated fat, which you get from olive oil, nuts, and seeds; polyunsaturated fat, which is found in peanut oil and fish; and saturated fat, which you can get from coconut and beef; and trans fat. Try to get an equal amount of the first three, but avoid the last. In addition, carb intake should be inversely proportional to fat intake, which means that if you have a meal higher in carbohydrates, then you should consume less fat; conversely, if you have a meal that’s high in fat, you should consume less carbs.

The third is protein. Protein is critical for metabolic activity and plays a role in satiety, energy, and function and structure of the cells. Without protein, your body would struggle to maintain muscle mass and ultimately slow down other physiological functions to keep you alive. Common sources of protein are meat, beans, and legumes. Be sure to include enough protein in your pre-workout meal to keep you feeling satisfied and strong.

So to recap, get all of your macronutrients from whole food sources, avoid processed foods and artificial drinks, and have a balanced meal 1-2 hours before your workout. Do that and your off days should be few and far in-between.

Post Workout Meal Tips

So now that we know what to eat before physical activity to enhance performance, what about what to eat to enhance recovery after a workout? All I’ve ever really consumed after exercising is a protein shake, but I knew there had to be more than just that. So I reached out to Bill again, this time for tips as to why and what to eat after a workout.

Post-exercise meals are a vital part of your health and fitness. Your body is primed to take in nutrition after you exercise, as your cells are more receptive to insulin and your muscles are starving for protein to rebuild themselves. But what’s a good post-workout meal? Here are a few ideas to help you out.

post tipsIntense exercise will lower your blood sugar, so it’s important to consume a good quality carbohydrate, especially those with a high glycemic index. High glycemic carbs break down quickly during digestion helping elevate the blood sugar quickly. Foods in this category include melons, oranges, fruit juice, and grains such as rice or potatoes.

It’s also important to include protein in your post-workout meal. The amount your body needs will depend greatly on how much you consume pre-exercise. In other words, if you had a lot of protein before you workout, you’d want to keep it low in your post-workout meal and vice versa. As I mentioned in the pre-workout meal tips, protein is critical for maintaining muscle mass. Excellent sources of protein include meats, fish, eggs, and legumes. You can also opt for a protein powder, but be sure to choose one that’s high-quality. My personal favorite is the PaleoMeal from Designs for Health, as it’s both high in quality and serves various nutritional purposes.

Lastly, make sure you get some good quality fat in your meal as well. You don’t need a lot because it’ll slow down how quickly your body breaks down the carbohydrates and, therefore, slow down your recovery. If you’re eating meat or fish, that should provide you with enough fat. But if not, then try adding olive oil or avocado. Keep in mind that fat calories add up quickly and that you don’t need an excess amount.

It’s important to remember that post-exercise recovery is the key to physical improvement. Giving your body what it needs after a workout can make a tremendous difference in the results you get.


Personal Trainer Bill Daniels Headshot

Meet Bill Daniels

Bill Daniels believes that every person has individual needs, so in combination with their level of exercise knowledge, he creates unique plans for his different clients. His education in nutrition and love of fitness makes him a perfect trainer for many different types of individuals; especially those who like to work hard.

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