One of the most common questions I get asked as a coach is “What Do I Eat Before/After My Workout??”
Workout nutrition and knowing what to eat before and after a workout can get complicated, fast. There are WAYYY too many supplement companies out there telling you that you NEED to take their 37 supplements to succeed, and there are too many ill-informed friends that are dying to share what works for ‘them’, but we want to share what we have seen, in general, work for most everyone. Keep it simple and effective.
TIMING: Minimum 60-90 minutes prior to workout. Your gut will already be stressed going into that workout, no need to have food hanging out in the digestive system for it to have to deal with too.
FUEL: You will want an easy to digest carbohydrates and a small amount of protein. Carbohydrates serve as our body’s optimal and desired fuel source when powering through the Class WOD, going on that long training run, or getting through all of our lifting sets at the gym. Protein will help prevent excess muscle breakdown mid/post-workout.
HOW MUCH: Depending on the duration of the workout you’re about to endure, as well as your body composition, we recommend about 15-30g of protein, and 20-60g of carbohydrates.
WHAT TO AVOID: Limit fat and fiber as these will slow digestion. Although slow digestion is typically a good thing because it helps you feel fuller longer, in this case we want this meal to be digested and absorbed quickly.
WHAT FOODS: Starchy Carbohydrates: Rice, Oatmeal, Gluten Free Bread, Sweet Potatoes, or fruit low in fiber like bananas, apples, or oranges.
Protein Sources: Chicken, eggs, turkey, or a simple protein shake.
Here are some suggestions for pre-workout fuel:
Banana, orange or apple
Greek yogurt with berries
Oatmeal with fruit
Protein bar (Pure Protein, Quest, Vega Snack, No Cow)
Protein Shake and Carbohydrate Supplement (if you are aiming to build muscle/mass)
BCAAs/EAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) – Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and like we mentioned, protein aids with the repair/recovery process of exercise. Taking a BCAA supplement can help ‘kick-start’ the protein synthesis process intra-workout, which prevents breakdown of the muscle and begins repair of the muscle tissue before the workout is even finished. Recommended Brand: Driven Nutrition Aminos
TIMING: Research has shown that the ‘window of opportunity’ post workout is not as small as we once thought, BUT when you exercise, your body produces cortisol (stress hormone), which can impact recovery. So it is best to get in carbohydrates (which help spike insulin and bring cortisol back down) within 1-2 hours post-workout.
FUEL: Again, you will want both carbohydrates and protein. Post-workout, carbohydrates will help replenish energy stores lost and protein will help with the repair/recovery process of muscle tissue.
HOW MUCH: Depending on the duration of the workout, as well as your body composition, we recommend a 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates:protein. If the workout was longer than 1 hour, we typically recommend bringing it up to 2:1 or even 3:1 of carbohydrates to protein. In general though, about 20-40g of carbohydrates and 20-40g of protein is adequate.
WHAT TO AVOID: Limit fat and fiber again because at this point, we want our body to receive and absorb ‘reinforcements’ to aid recovery as soon as possible. With fat and fiber slowing things down, the body will not recover optimally.
WHAT FOODS: For the weekend warrior trying to lose body-fat, getting in a meal filled with real food post-workout is going to be ideal and adequate. Although if you are a top-level athlete that is training again in 2-3 hours, you might be better off with a protein/carb powder recovery drink for easy digestion and fast absorption.
The main difference between pre and post-workout nutrition is the types of carbohydrates. For your post-workout carbs you want them to be fast-absorbing simple sugars to help bring cortisol down and begin replenishing and repairing the body.
The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:
Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
Protein powder (Grass-fed Whey – Driven Nutrition or Plant-Based Protein – RELabs)
Driven Nutrition Grass Fed Whey Protein Powder
Aminos (BCAAs) by Driven Nutrition – give your muscles the raw material they need to recover and rebuild fast. You’ll dramatically reduce soreness, while boosting your hydration and fat loss.
Driven’s Glyco-Drive – Ignite muscle growth, restore glycogen levels post-workout, decrease recovery time, increase nutrient delivery post-workout