Many of you have asked me for a while to post on workout nutrition. What do I eat before and after I workout, if anything?! Well the answer is…..IT DEPENDS!!!
What are your goals? Are you trying to gain muscle? lose fat? get healthy? stay healthy? Your nutrition and workouts depend on your goal.
What was your workout today? Your nutrition will depend on your GOAL and on WHAT you did that day in the gym.
So, here’s what I go by when I eat and workout….
- Food is fuel. Think of food as fuel to gas up your tank. You want to have just enough to fill up your belly but not overstuff yourself [this goes for every meal of the day btw]. You want to fuel your workout so that you feel good. You don’t need a huge meal to fuel yourself. Your body actually runs off your “sugar [glycogen] stores” that you have built up so as long as you’re not on an extremely low carb diet, you’ll feel fine with a snack or small meal! TIP: You’ll actually have your most energy the morning after a huge carb up/cheat meal so plan to work extra hard in the gym and work on your “weak” areas with the weights that next day when you feel amazing after filling up those “stores.”
- Eat every 3 hours approximately and fit in your workouts in between. So, time your workouts so that you have 30 min to an hour or so to digest one meal before you go to the gym! Don’t tell me you can’t eat every 3 hours…you totally can IF you’re eating the right portions! This takes time to train the body and stomach [and your food & portion choices] BUT I PROMISE you will feel better when you get there. Give it time & listen to your body!
- If you’re trying hard to LOSE weight, your pre and post-workout nutrition will be whatever “diet” plan you’re on, so you don’t need to vary it at all based on your workouts. You will just add your workout (lifting or cardio..doesn’t matter) in just after a meal or in between meals. If you’re starving after you workout, push that next meal up from 3 hours to 2.5 hours. Listen to your body! Let it be your guide!!
- If you just need a snack…sometimes you’ll be between meals or close to your next meal, say 2 hours after your last and it’s time for the gym. Grab a quick snack on your way out the door. 1/4 – 1/2 cup of old-fashioned or steel cut oatmeal and a few eggs or an egg white omelet with spinach, peppers, onions, etc (add in 1-2 yolks per day). A protein shake is always a quick and easy way…watch that you’re not eating TOO many carbs/sugars before you head to the gym….they won’t help you out that much. Remember!!! Your fuel comes from your glycogen (sugar) stores, not the meal just before you head to the gym. Just cut a meal in half if you’re off your 3 hour cycle. Try 2 oz instead of 4 oz of chicken or fish. Half the amount of brown rice or almonds you would be eating with that.
- If you’re trying to gain muscle, you’ll be lifting HARD & HEAVY 5 days a week probably. You won’t be doing too much [or any] cardio. After these HEAVY workouts, you’ll have your PWO (post workout) meal that will consist of 20-40g whey protein powder b/c it’s the fastest to get into your muscles and you’ll combine that with LOW/NO fat carb source. Ideally, you’ll find a whey protein source that is natural and without artificial sweeteners and you’ll use a juice, fruit or low-fat milk to sweeten that drink. Why whey? It will get into those muscles the faster than chicken or eggs, for example. You also MUST combine this protein with a quick source of carbs. So, leave the oatmeal out of this PWO meal and try an apple or orange or a low-fat treat you’ve been wanting. Watch your portions!! You don’t want to exceed 30-40g of carbs or 150-200 calories total for the whole meal. [If you want to know more on gaining muscle, leave me a comment, a note on my FITori Facebook Page or tori [at] FIToriBLOG.com.]
- If you workout FIRST thing in the morn, extremely early….you can have a wee snack before you step out the door so you don’t feel overly stuffed OR starving. I always found EAS Carb Control Shakes a great, light snack on the way to the gym early, early. BUT, now that I lean more toward real food than I used to [during comp days] I would suggest half of my egg white muffin/protein pancake or something else quick like that. [Go to your local health food store and you can find natural protein powders!]
- Fasted cardio? The jury is out on this. I don’t believe in it. I’ve never liked it. If you do it, great! Whatever works for you, I won’t stop you! Do your cardio really early and then add your lift in later. I do best on ONE trip to the gym per day…only one! And, I’ll blog later about cardio or weights first!
- HERE’S THE FUN PART!!! If you are someone who LOVES to have a sweet treat every day….you can BUT you have to time it properly!! You need to try to have this sweet treat 30 min after you lift weights. I used to make a deal with myself that if I wanted to eat ____, I’d go lift FIRST. Your body will then utilize those sugars from your carby pasta meal or your carby sweet treat and they will be more likely to be utilized by your muscles than go on your hips!Now, as I said, it’s ideal if this is a low-fat source but if you’re bound and determined to go out to Olive Garden and have a pasta meal and dessert on Friday night for your cheat meal for the week…..do yourself a favor, minimize the destruction and LIFT BEFORE!!!
- So what exactly do I eat? I can’t tell you that for sure. I’m starting that discussion group as soon as I can get all the kinks worked out so that we can talk in there about specific foods. I had a great discussion on my FITori Facebook Page last night with some awesome girls who were asking specific questions about their meals and I helped [I hope I helped] to tweak them a bit! Removed some foods and added in others. Now, this wasn’t a full meal plan and I need a LOT more info on YOU to tell YOU what to eat!
I don’t believe that one meal plan works for everyone because we’re all different. I believe we need to use our bodies as our guides and learn to listen to our bodies. I also believe we need to LOVE what we eat rather than just following someone else’s meal plan to get skinny.
Bottom line: If you’re trying to lose weight there is no formula that says you must eat x min before or after a workout and there is no formula for protein and carbs [different story if you're working on building muscle]! Eat your regular “diet” or “maintenance” meal plan and add your workout in 30 min to an hour after one meal, go to the gym for 30 – 90 min and then eat when you feel hungry afterward [don't forget to rehydrate!!]
Side Note: This does not apply to distance runners. I have NO experience with running LONG distances or marathons. That’s a whole other ballgame with nutrition and I have no clue!!!
Did this help answer your questions? Did I miss something or leave gaps?
What’s your favorite pre- or post-workout meal?