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26 Feb

5 Vital Post and Pre-Workout Nutrition Facts You Need To Know

You woke up in the morning, drank the obligatory cup of hot coffee, packed your shorts, towel and sneakers, and you are ready to hit the gym. This is all fine and well, except for one crucial thing: you forgot about food. What you eat before a workout and how much is as important as how many reps and repetitions you do.

Eating the appropriate food both before and after working out will help maximize your efficiency and overall results. By giving your body the necessary nutrients, it can fully recover from the exertion and aid in building bigger, stronger muscles. For that, you need to be careful what you eat and internalize some basic facts about fitness and nutrition. Here are five post and pre-workout nutrition facts.


1. What is Pre-workout and Post-Workout Nutrition?

Before going into further details, first, we have to establish what exactly pre-workout and post-workout nutrition involves and how they can help you in your efforts.

The pre-workout meal’s purpose is to give your body the necessary fuel for a full training session. More specifically, it aids the body by preventing muscle proteins from breaking during an intense workout, as well as well as slowing down the depletion process of the muscle glycogen. As a result, your pre-workout meal must consist of a mix of proteins and carbohydrates. The consensus is to eat two to three hours before starting exercising.

As for the post-workout nutrition, it is the meal eaten right after the session ends. In this case, the same principle applies – the best meal should contain a mixture of foods that contain proteins and carbohydrates. Eating within two hours finishing your workout is advisable but try to shorten that time frame to 30 minutes when you can.

The post-workout meal will help your muscles repair and recover. It reduces muscle breakdown by increasing the rate at with muscle protein synthesizes, recovers the muscle glycogen which was depleted during working out and will alleviate muscle soreness and fatigue.


2. The Difference Between Simple Carbs and Complex Carbs

In short, carbohydrates are nutrients that your body assimilates in order to generate glucose, which in turn gives the body the energy to function as it should. By consuming carbohydrates, glucose penetrates the bloodstream, a process which raises the levels of blood sugar. Consuming them both before and after working out is recommended. As a concrete example, bananas, a rich source of carbs, is the best food to eat before spinning class.

With that being said, there are two types of carbohydrates: complex carbs and simple carbs. Generally, experts recommend adopting a higher intake of complex carbs as they are broadly speaking healthier than their counterpart, but that does not mean you should not eat simple carb foods.

Simple carbs can be found in milk products, vegetables and fruits. Their main characteristic is that these are usually assimilated faster by the system. Besides the sources where they occur naturally, they can be found in industrially processed foods such as brown sugar, lactose, malt and dextrose syrup and corn syrup. The downside is their quantity of nutrients is negligible and are less likely to have a significant impact on your workout results. Make sure to avoid these and focus more on the foods mentioned above that contain simple natural carbs.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, is the way to go if you are striving for peak performance. Found in grains, vegetables, fruits and bread, they contain fiber and starches that will fuel your body before working out and repair it after the training sessions end. Unlike simple carbs, complex carbs are assimilated more slowly by the body, their benefits lasting longer.


3. Proper Hydration

Hydrating properly before and after working out is a crucial process, for obvious reasons. While there is no predefined indication as to how much and when you should drink before starting your training sessions, the consensus is to drink two cups of water two to three hours before hopping on the machine. Hydration will give you energy and prevent any muscle spasms and cramps from occurring. Do not forget to drink during the work out as well – the proper ratio is one cup every 15 to 20 minutes of intense exercising, especially if you are the type of person who sweats a lot.

As for post-workout hydration, it is important because you have to recover all the fluids that were eliminated by sweating. Do it right after finishing your training, even before eating. You need to do some basic math to determine the right ratio – weigh yourself before and after working out and drink 16 ounces of water for every 500 grams you have lost. This process takes some time to get used to, but who can argue with science?


4. The Importance of Proteins

Our bodies need proteins to sustain their structure and function properly, as well as the regulation of organs and tissues. When we receive proteins from foods, there are transformed into amino acids by the digestive system. These intricate molecules are necessary both before and after working out.

There are three types of proteins: complete proteins, incomplete proteins and complementary proteins. The first category offers the body all the necessary amino acids and can be found in meat, fish and dairy products such as cheese, milk and eggs. Incomplete proteins, found in dry beans and rice, have lower amounts of amino acids.

Finally, complementary proteins consist of a mixture of two or more sources of incomplete proteins that, consumed in conjunction with one another, yield a complete amount of amino acids. One particular example for this is a meal comprised of rice and dry beans.

Consuming proteins before and after working out will aid you in burning calories, in a timely fashion, reduces cortisol levels and increases the protein’s process of synthezation (in other words, it prevents the muscles from breaking down or rupturing). Here are a few examples of foods that are rich sources of proteins:

  • Beans
  • Lean beef
  • Chicken Breast
  • Seafood
  • White Meat
  • Dairy products (make sure to choose low fat)
  • Eggs


5. Getting the Timing Right

Finally, we should expand upon some points we have touched only briefly. To make sure your nutrition plans yields the best results, you have to get the timing right. This will take some trial and error, but eventually, you will do it almost instinctively.

The tricky part is adapting it to your own particular body build, needs and overall fitness goals. Still, it is worth noting that starving yourself is never, never a wise option. For the sake of simplicity, let’s split it into two broad categories:

  • Snacking. If you are craving a snack right before starting the training session, make sure to eat it 5 to 60 minutes beforehand. This is the shortest time window that still allows the body to properly digest the food before hitting the machines. The sooner you do it, the better.
  • Big meals. You should never eat a big meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, depending on the case) right before working out. Make sure you wait for two, three hours before going to the gym. Improper digestion will affect your overall performance, results and, on top of all, will make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.



If you want to get the best results out of your effort, it is important to know all the pre and post workout facts, like the difference between simple and complex carbs, how to hydrate, the importance of proteins and when and how much to eat. They might be harder to internalize at first, but you will get used to it after a while. Make sure to follow these tips, and you will achieve your fitness goals in no time. 


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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