The Best Food to Eat Before and After a Workout
Keep your nutrition on track
What you eat right before, and after, a workout is almost as important as the workout itself. Don’t let a bad diet ruin all your efforts in the gym.
So read on to find out what you should be eating before you work out, and in those post-gym hours.
It’s not all about protein powders
When people think pre and post workout nutrition they immediately think of mixtures of pills and protein powders, but it doesn’t have to be this complicated, according to Brad Davidson, co-founder and performance strategist at Stark, a fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle facility in Irvine, Calif., and author of The Stark Naked 21-Day Metabolic Reset.
“Eating real food at the right times is your best weapon for getting the most out of your workouts,” Davidson said. “You must first be sure to eat plenty of protein throughout the day. Protein is a must to help repair damage workouts cause to your muscles and tissue, and is great at raising the metabolic rate allowing for better body composition results quicker. Research shows the best way to accomplish this is by spreading your intake of protein evenly throughout the day. If you lift weights, aim for getting in 30 grams of protein multiple times a day. This is the ideal amount each meal to trigger protein synthesis giving you nice toned muscles.”
Start by consuming protein and fats in the meals before your workouts. This will create focus and drive. Proteins such as beef, eggs or salmon are ideal to make sure you have plenty of the amino acids that drive production of dopamine and acetyl-choline in your brain, he said.
“These neurotransmitters are responsible for generating your drive and focus allowing you to train more intensely during your workout. Consume healthy fats like fish oil, coconut oil, cashews, or real butter to help stabilize blood sugar for a longer period of time allowing for more of a fat loss response from your training,” he said.
No carb loading
Don’t carb load before a workout if you want to lose body fat. “Consuming carbs shuts down the body’s ability to burn body fat while you train by spiking insulin. Carbs also calm your brain down making you tired and lethargic, resulting in a less intense workout,” he said.
Make sure you have some fruit before your workout because avoiding carbs early in the day can leave you feeling lethargic due to low liver glycogen levels.
“To increase energy without blocking your fat burning ability, have a serving of fruit 30 minutes before your workout to boost your energy and get the most out of your workout. Fruit is a fructose based sugar and will not spike blood sugar like glucose-based carbohydrates,” he said.
What to eat after your workout
After you finish your workout, Davidson shared his tips on what to eat:
- Consume protein in the meals after your workouts. Eating enough protein post workout is necessary for what’s called protein synthesis to help repair your damaged muscle and tissue allowing for nice toned muscle development.
- The best time to consume carbs in your meals is after you work out. Your metabolism is higher and your muscle glycogen levels are low, which means the carbs will replenish muscle glycogen not be store as fat. Eating carbs in the meals after your workout also help bring down the major stress hormone Cortisol that needs to be kept under control if you want a lean body. The best types of carbohydrates post workout are complex carbs like sweet potatoes, yams, white rice. Avoid eating large amounts of fructose based carbs post workout as this can bog down the liver and can blunt fat burning. Simply avoid processed junk food carbs to avoid this.
- Have a glass of tart cherry juice with your first post workout meal. Research has shown drinking this after workouts can reduce inflammation and accelerate recovery from the damage caused by exercise.