What to Eat Before and After a Workout

Another late night post. I'm afraid I won't be able to do this subject as much justice as I want, but I will do my best.

What I am hoping to post today is accurate information on when to eat before and after a workout and what to eat as well.

I get asked this question quite a bit from most people. It's funny how many different answers I get too when I ask other exercise enthusiasts this question as well. It ranges from everything to nothing or black coffee to a full Irish breakfast. Followed by making sure you eat either a lean protein after a rigorous day of lifting or a ton of carbs after a long run.

Let's start with before a workout. When should you eat? According to Jillian Michaels "You don’t need to gorge yourself; a healthy snack will do the trick. I suggest you eat something 45 minutes to an hour before training — you’ll have more energy and endurance to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your muscle tone. Aim for something with carbohydrates and protein"

Things like bananas, oatmeal, you can also have caffeine just make sure you eat it with something as well. Caffeine for the boost, food for the fuel.  Protein Shake, egg whites. If you aiming for a night workout you can also have chicken and brown rice before a workout.

What should you eat? Well according to Jillian Michaels, you should definitely be eating something!!! So make sure you're not skipping that all important first meal! Not just coffee.

"You need sugar to exert energy. Your body needs a certain amount of sugar for fuel when training. When that blood sugar is not there, your body will convert your own muscle tissue into energy. A study published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal looked at cyclists who ate before they trained versus those who fasted before they trained. The amount of fat burn was the same for both groups, but those who had trained without eating first had 10 percent of their calorie burn come from protein — including their own muscle mass. You’re trying to build muscle, not eat away at it!"

Now for the after: The Importance of Post Workout Nutrition by John Berardi at Bodybuilding covers this really well in the article. I encourage you to click the link to find out the science behind how your body heals and replenishes after a workout.
      He describes the workout process like building a house "If I plan on remodeling my home I can hire a guy to tear down a couple of walls, a guy to clean up the mess, and a guy to come in and rebuild better walls than the ones that came down. But if I don't give that guy any bricks, how's he going to get anything done? If I don't give him the bricks, all I'll have in the end is a much smaller, unfinished house. The same holds true with exercise remodeling. In particular, during the exercise bout and immediately following it, exercise breaks down our muscle carbohydrate stores and our muscle protein structures. Then, the immune system comes in to clean up the mess. And finally, signals are generated to tell the body to rebuild. However, as I hope you can now see, without the proper protein and carbohydrate raw materials, this building can't take place. You'll be left with muscles that never reach their potential. So with this analogy, I hope it's obvious that this post-exercise period is not a time to take lightly. Remember, you spent a significant amount of time in the gym breaking down the muscle for a good reason. You want it to be better adapted to future demands.
So to realize full return on your time investment, you need to give the body the raw materials it needs, namely protein and carbohydrates."

He recommends a post workout carbohydrate intake of  "0.8g of carbohydrate per 1 kilogram of body weight for speeding up muscle carbohydrate replenishment while preventing excess fat gain"

I just googled what is 149 pounds in kilograms? It came out to be 67.5853. I then multiplied that number by .8 which came out to be about 54grams of carbohydrates I would need to consume in order to help my body recover from a workout and accelerate protein repair.

As far as protein "Researchers have used anywhere from 0.2g - 0.4g of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight to demonstrate the effectiveness of adding protein to a post-workout carbohydrate drink (van Loon et al 2000b, Roy et al 1998). As an increased consumption of the essential amino acids may lead to a more positive protein balance, 0.4g/kg may be better than 0.2g/kg."
Again I took that 67.5853 multiplied it by .4 and came up with about 27 grams of protein

Viola! My post workout meal would work out to be about 1 bowl of oatmeal and about 5 egg whites.

I did learn that he doesn't suggest eating a fat after a workout as it can slow digestion as well as the rate of the absorption of carbs and protein.

Now When to eat after working out:: John suggests, immediately!   It is absolutely crucial that you consume your post-workout meal immediately after exercise. As indicated above, after exercise, the muscles are depleted and require an abundance of protein and carbohydrate. In addition, during this time, the muscles are biochemically "primed" for nutrient uptake. This phenomenon is commonly known as the "window of opportunity". Over the course of the recovery period, this window gradually closes and by failing to eat immediately after exercise, you diminish your chances of promoting full recovery. To illustrate how quickly this window closes, research has shown that consuming a post-exercise meal immediately after working out is superior to consuming one only 1 hour later."

John does say that some people find it hard to stomach a large meal, such as my suggested omelet and oatmeal meal, but encourages liquid supplementation. While it's better to get your source from whole foods, sometimes, this is the time where protein shakes help. They are easier to stomach and quickly absorbed back into the body. Click the link above for more information why he thinks protein shakes are a great idea. 

There you have it! What to eat before and after a workout and most importantly when to time those meals for the fuel your body needs to push through and for a quick recovery process to build muscle and lose fat.
Also check out Runner's World for some great tips for before and after meals and snacks for running.

Tomorrow, I'll tackle what to eat DURING a workout!