Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Proper nutrition is essential to maximize the effects of your workouts. Eat too close to your workout and you will feel bloated and not energized. Eat too far from your workout and you may feel too drained to give it your all. We all have different nutrition habits according to our lifestyle and nutrition strategies will vary for each of us.
The goal of your pre workout meal is to ensure one thing only: that you feel freaking amazing during the workout. Pre workout nutrition will vary greatly between individuals, if you are unsure about it, here’s a good place to start.
1. Drink water. Half a litre will do the trick. You don’t need to chug it down right as you step in the gym, just have it throughout the hour preceding your workout.
2. Eat a MINIMUM of 1 hour before your workouts. You want to feel fresh and energized! You don’t want to be digesting food as you workout so don’t eat too close to your
workouts. If you have no other option, eat a piece of fruit before your workout, although this should be in in emergency scenario only.
3. Eat easily digestible foods. Fruits and veggies are the best. Small amounts of protein, fats and grains are ok as well. Avoid junk foods at all cost because they will cause an energy drop during your workout.
4. Leafy greens are good but not mandatory. It's always best practice to have some greens on your plate before a work, but I know that sometimes life gets in the way. Try to incorporate them if possible but it's no big deal if they aren't in your pre workout meal.
5. Never eat to the point of feeling full when you eat before a workout. If you feel full, odds are you will still be digesting most of your food during the workout and that will take energy away from the actual working out.
6. My go to if I'm squeezed for time is dark chocolate (90% cacao). I've written another article dedicated to chocolate here so you see my reasoning.
These protein balls below are fantastic to have if you are short on time before a workout. Check out the recipe here.
Can you do fasted workouts?
The simple answer is if it works for your lifestyle and you feel like you get good workouts that way then yes, absolutely.
I have many clients that train at 6am that don’t eat before their workouts and they crush it every time.
Similarly I have mid day clients that cannot eat before their workouts due to hectic schedules and they also crush it. If you find yourself low on energy during fasted workouts then it's probably not the best way to go for you.
Eat within 30 minutes of your workout. The reason I recommend 30 minutes after is more to form a habit. One good workout, one healthy meal after. When you wait too long after your workout, you might not be in “healthy mode" anymore and eating a proper meal may not be a high priority.
Think about is this way: you finish to workout at 4pm but decide to wait until 8pm to eat with friends for dinner. Instead of eating a good meal with greens, lean protein and healthy fats you hit up a restaurant. Even though you order a healthy meal, it won't come close to what you could of eaten right after your workout.
If you are not going home right after the workout just pack something healthy to eat right after.
Unless you are a bodybuilding a few weeks out of a show, it doesn't really matter if you eat right after your workout or not.
You can eat a larger meal after your workouts because you need to replenish your energy. Eating a combination of protein, healthy fats, veggies and a fruit. If you are very hungry you can add a portion of grains as well. My favourite grains to eat after a workout are brown rice, quinoa and steel cut oats.
After your post workout meal, you should feel good, not too full but content.
Protein shakes yay or nay?
I only recommend protein shakes on two occasions.
1. If you are trying to gain weight as a mean to increase your total calorie uptake throughout the day. Make sure to have either a piece of fruit of some other carb source with your protein shake as this will help your body use up the protein better
2. If you are short on time and won’t have time to eat your post workout meal. This ties in with my previous point of eating something healthy right after a workout. If you don't have time to eat something, drink it. A good post workout shake can have fruits, protein powder, some leafy greens and your choice of water, coconut water or non dairy milk (keeps better than milk on my opinion).
The infamy of the “I earned it" mentality
Too many people go to the gym, crush an amazing workout and negate all its effect by eating junk food right after under the false assumption of them having “earned it”. Your cheat meals do not belong right after your workouts. Period.
If you’ve been following me for a while you know that I am all about flexible dieting and encourage cheat meals. But having them after your workout is not the right thing to do. After a good workout, your body is very receptive to the nutrients you put in it.
Treat your body to a good meal. You body has earned to right to have healthy, nutrient rich foods. Then have your cheat meals with your friends and family and have a good time.
Eating the right foods around your workouts does have an impact on your success. Once you find what works for you, you can eat the same thing over and over again or find similar foods. I've been having similar protein shakes and post workout meals for the past few years. The same can be said with my pre workout meals. I train around 3 pm so my pre workout is a regular meal with smaller portions.
The foods you eat will not differ greatly from your other meals apart from the quantity for the pre workout meal.
Enjoy the gains!