The nutrients you consume before, during and after your workout have a huge impact on your energy levels, workout intensity and recovery. In this article I’m going to explain how to use food and supplements correctly to make sure you get the most out of every workout!
The best way to approach workout nutrition is to look at it in 2 phases, energy and recovery.
In the first phase we’re looking to maximize energy levels to ensure we have the fuel required to train at 100% from the start to the end of the workout. It’s important to note that this phase is not the muscle building phase, the muscle building and repair starts in phase 2. It’s widely assumed that pre workout supplements are muscle builders, but they’re not. They simply allow you to train harder, the muscle building takes place in the recovery stage.
In Phase 2 we’re looking to maximize anabolic activity and minimize catabolism (muscle breakdown). We want to ensure our body has the nutrients it needs to start the rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue. We also want to replace nutrients lost during training.
The plan is split up into in the following 5 stages:
- Stage 1 – Pre-workout meal (phase 1)
- Stage 2 – Pre-workout supplementation (phase 1)
- Stage 3 – Intra-workout supplementation (phase 1 & 2)
- Stage 4 – Post-workout supplementation (phase 2)
- Stage 5 – Post-workout meal (phase 2)
Stage 1 – Pre Workout Meal
Timing: 1-3 hours before your workout, depending on your metabolism. Those with a higher metabolic rate may want to have their pre-workout meal 1 to 1.5 hours before training.
Think of your pre-workout meal as the “energy foundation” for your workout. This meal is going to provide your body with the sustained energy you need to make sure you can train at 100% for your ENTIRE workout.
For this meal you’re going to need protein, slow digesting carbohydrates, and fats. A well rounded, macronutrient rich meal. Ideally, protein would be from lean sources like fish, trimmed red meal or chicken. Good sources of carbohydrates include brown rice, potatoes, pasta, yams and oats. The carbohydrates are the most important aspect of this meal, because the slow release energy will be power your lifts. So make sure you’re getting 30-60g from a good carbohydrate source.
Stage 2 – Pre Workout Supplements
Timing: 15-30 minutes before training.
Pre-workout supplements give you the energy, drive and focus you need to power through an intense workout. If you’ve ever tried and reputable pre workout supplement you’ll know the difference between training with or without a pre-workout. Benefits include increased energy, total mental focus, added intensity, increased blood flow and increase workload.
A good pre-workout should contain at a minimum beta-alanine, arginine and stimulants. Beta-alanine acts as a lactic acid buffer and allows you to train harder. Arginine open sup blood vessels and allows for greater blood flow. And stimulants (like caffeine) drive your energy, focus and endurance.
Recommended pre workout products include:
Stage 3 – Intra Workout Supplements
Timing: During your workout.
Amino acid supplementation during your workout is a must if you want to maximize your gains and limit muscle breakdown. We’re now moving from our energy phase (Phase 1) into our recovery phase (Phase 2). Consuming amino acids during training helps increase energy levels, reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism), and speed up recovery times.
Stage 4 – Post Workout Supplementation
Timing: Immediately after training.
You could argue that post-workout nutrition is the most important meal of the day. After a heavy and intense weight training session, your body is depleted of many vital nutrients including protein, glycogen (sugars used for energy), amino acids, and important vitamins and minerals. It’s absolutely essential that replace these nutrients as soon as possible to prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown) and promote anabolism (muscle repair and regrowth) and protein synthesis.
At the very minimum you should consume a good whey protein powder with water. It’s important that you use whey protein post=workout as it’s the fastest digesting protein source. Consuming protein post-workout starts the muscle repair process and protein synthesis.
Additionally, to replace lost muscle glycogen and spike insulin, you can add fast digesting carbohydrates. Good examples of these are dextrose and waxy maize starch. Around 70g of carbohydrates is need for an adequate insulin spike.
To recap on post-workout nutrition, your ultimate shake would be 30-40g of whey protein, 70g of carbs, 5g of creatine and 5g of glutamine. But at a very minimum, 30-40g of whey protein with water.
Stage 5 – Post Workout Meal
Timing: 1 hour after your workout.
You post-workout meal is the final stage in your workout nutrition. Like the pre-workout meal, this meal should be well rounded consisting of protein, carbohydrates and good fats. You should always get your protein from lean sources, and your carbohydrates from slow digesting sources (i.e., whole and brown foods).
The nutrients you consume around your workouts have a HUGE impact on how hard you train and how much muscle you gain. If you’re not getting the results that you want from your workouts take a good look at your nutrition, you’ll be glad you did when you see the results!