The long and short of pre and post workout nutrition

August 15,2016

What you eat before your workout can:

• Enhance your exercise routine

• Help you build muscles

Similarly, what you eat post your workout can:

• Help you recover your energy

• Repair muscles

Eat right to improve your workout

Portion size and timing are also important when it comes to workout-related nutrition. Additionally, your pre and post workout nutrition should be designed around whether you exercise in the morning or in the evening. 

If you exercise regularly then you would’ve probably already noticed that some foods supercharge your workout while others do the opposite. In this blog, we look at the how, what, and why of pre and post-workout nutrition.

1. Carbohydrates

For energising your workout

Carbs have been receiving a lot of bad rap of late, however, most nutritionists will tell you that they’re essential for providing your body with energy. Your body converts carbs into glucose and this glucose is further converted into energy. Hence, it makes sense to eat the recommended amount of carbs before indulging in any strenuous physical exercise.

This doesn’t mean that you should binge on carbs. If you eat an excessive amount of carbs then the body is not able to burn all of them and those that are not converted into energy get stored as fats. Also, you need to make the distinction between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs, which basically is sugar, including the naturally occurring sugar fructose which is found in fruits, upon consumption are converted in your small intestine into glucose resulting in a quick surge of energy.

Complex carbs also provide you with energy, however, it takes a little longer for your body to metabolise them. Complex carbs are mostly found in fibre-rich foods, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. They are a source of steady and balanced energy, hence, should be preferred over simple carbs. What you need to keep in mind where complex carbs are concerned is that you should opt for whole grains instead of refined flour.

- For a light to moderate exercise routine, you don’t need to consume too many carbs prior to your workout unless your nutritionist has advised you to have them.

- For an intense fitness regime, it is important you that you eat the recommended amount of carbs to enhance your performance thereby increasing your chances of meeting your fitness goals.

- Eat carbs ideally an hour and a half to two hours before you workout.

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2. Proteins

The building blocks of the body

It is advisable to consume proteins at regular intervals during the day. Protein is essential for regulating hormones, fortifying the immune system, and is involved in various other biochemical processes within the body. Besides the other functions that the body requires protein for it also requires it for muscle building. Plus, eating food rich in protein makes you feel fuller sooner as compared to eating the same amount of carbs, so, because of its satiating effect, it helps in reducing the size of your meal portions.

The main sources of dietary protein are red meat, poultry, dairy, fish, soy and nuts. Although you get proteins from these foods, it is recommended you take supplements as they provide a higher concentration of proteins.

The four popular supplements available in the market are whey, casein, soy and egg protein. Egg whites provide the protein in the case of egg protein supplements. Soy protein is derived from soyabean. Whey and casein are both dairy proteins (cow’s milk); whey is derived from the liquid part of milk while casein is derived from the curd part of milk.

Whey is digested by the body faster hence is supposed to be ideal for pre and post workout nutrition. You can read our post on why whey is regarded as the best supplement for building muscles and how it works.

- Basically, protein, when consumed before exercising, helps in muscle building and post workout it will help your body repair damaged muscle tissues.

- Consume protein supplements half an hour before and half an hour after your workout.

For muscle building, maintenance and repair

3. Fats

To be avoided as a pre-and post-workout snack. Don’t get us wrong, your body needs fats just as it does carbs and proteins, just that fats take longer to digest so having them before you exercise can have the opposite effect of providing energy- they will slow you down! So, include them in your daily diet, not in the latter part of the day though, and steer clear of them a couple of hours before you exercise.

Most nutritionists recommend consuming a larger proportion of your daily recommended intake of healthy fats at the start of your day so your body can burn the calories through the course of the day.

Amongst fats, it is recommended that consumption of unsaturated fats should be moderate and that of saturated fats should be low. Trans fats present in hydrogenated vegetable oils are an absolute no-no, they should be avoided, not just pre and post workout but as much as possible from your daily diet.

Follow these simple tips on exercise nutrition and it will help you get the maximum of your workout.

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