From a Dietitian: What to eat Pre and Post Workout for the “Weekend Warrior”
-This blog is intended for "weekend warriors" who workout regularly but are not training for the next Chicago triathlon or planning to compete in Mr. Olympia.
“What should I eat before and after a workout” this is one of the most commonly asked questions I get. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what qualifies as a "good" or "bad" pre and post workout meal, and how much protein you should be consuming while working out.
The web is full of conflicting information on what you should be doing to properly fuel yourself before and after your workouts. Part of this confusion comes from instagram “influencers” and unqualified individuals making recommendations based on things that “worked for them.” Another issue is that science in the field of nutrition is forever evolving, with new studies often being published that shift perspectives from what was previously considered a proper recommendation.
Pre and Post Workout Needs:
Guys, carbs are your friend! When we eat carbs, they breakdown into energy and energy allows us
to do “work” at the gym. Carbs breakdown to glucose, enter your muscles, and give them fuel. Think about filling up your car with gas. You are the car and carbs is the gasoline. We can only run our car on empty for so long. The same is with your body, it needs the glucose from carbohydrates to perform. Luckily, for my ketogenic diet followers out there, our body has glycogen stores that are dipped into when glucose is not readily available. Eating carbs before you exercise ensures that you’ll have extra glucose on hand if you need it to replenish those glycogen stores and perform your best. Also, carbs that are easily broken down (simple carbs) are best recommended before a workout so you have quick energy before your workout. I suggest eating these within 30 minutes of your workout.
A piece of medium sized fruit: banana, apple, orange
2 Rice cakes
English muffin with jelly
Yogurt topped with berries
Eating after a workout is super important. Remember, you just got done using up your immediate energy supplies and making micro tears in your muscles to help rebuild them stronger than before. Most people think PROTEIN, PROTEIN, PROTEIN after a workout and they are not entirely wrong. However, the better way to think is CARBS, CARBS, CARBS and Protein for a post workout recovery meal. You need carbs because your body needs to replenish those glycogen stores that it tapped into for additional energy during your workout and the protein is used to rebuild those micro tears. I suggest you focus on a balance of carbohydrates and good protein sources to refuel your body and muscles for optimal recovery. Remember, the most important thing after working out is to make sure you eat SOMETHING so you can see gains!
¼ cup of oatmeal topped with 5 walnuts, 1 tbsp nut butter and berries
½ banana with 1 tbsp of nut butter
English muffin sandwich with 1 egg
Greek yogurt with mixed fruit
How Much Protein Should I Eat Post-Workout?
Yes, I just got done preaching about the importance of carbs before and after a workout, but I want to take a moment to separately address protein. Why? Because when most people think about post-workout nutrients, they think about protein. While protein is important post-workout, most people over consume protein after a workout. Let's start by determining how much protein you scientifically need in a given day.
STEP 1: Determine your weight in kilograms
To figure out how much protein you need, first take your weight in pounds divide that by 2.2 (you are converting your weight into kilograms).
Example Female: 125 pounds / 2.2 = 56.8 kg female
Example Male: 180 pounds / 2.2 = 81.8 kg male
STEP 2: Multiply your weight in kilograms by a range (1.1-1.4 g/kg)
Example Female: 56.8 kg x (1.1-1.4) = 62-80 grams of protein needed for the day
Example Male: 81.8 kg x (1.1-1.4) = 90-115 grams of protein needed for the day
Notice that the recommendations are a range, and generalized. These recommendations are for both males and females as protein needs are based on grams per kilogram of body weight. If you plan to start training for a marathon or train for a power lifting competition your needs will likely be different. The greater the workload and duration, the greater the protein needs.
Also be mindful that depending on your level of fitness, age, what types of exercises you are doing (endurance vs. strength based) your protein needs do vary.
Your body can only process so much protein at a time, we cannot store protein in our bodies. What cannot be processed is lost as urine, or worse, stored as fat. Therefore, research recommends that protein consumption be spread evenly throughout the day. So yes, while protein is important after a workout, consuming 50g or more in one sitting, immediately after your gym routine, is likely overkill.
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