When you are going to plan your day around a gym workout do you consider your nutritional requirements before you go, or do you simply go to the gym and treat food as more of an afterthought?
For some gym-goers ‘pre’ and ‘post’ workout nutrition is the be-all and end-all of their activity, as it can be the deciding factor in a number of fitness outcomes such as gaining muscle, burning fat or having high energy levels to out-perform their previous personal best. Points to consider are nutrient timing, choice, quality, quantity and daily calorie intake.
On the other hand, some people find that they can perform adequately without any serious thought towards what, when and how much they are eating. The latter person has possibly stumbled upon a nutritional intake that allows them to exercise within optimal energy parameters, however have you experienced being at the gym where you only last for half of the planned session due to not having enough energy?
In this common scenario as a personal trainer I would ask the person, “when did you last have something to eat?”. If the answer is at 1 pm prior to a 6 pm workout or longer, then I would consider that to be too large a gap to have without food as the body will be running low on energy. Ideally a 2 to 3 hour gap between a main meal and the workout is considered to be a good ballpark figure for timing before and after, however there are exceptions to this rule. If you are having one of those days where you haven’t found any time to schedule in a meal then a small snack like a piece of fruit or a ‘liquid meal’ such as a protein smoothie 1 hour before can be the quick answer to overcome lack of energy and hunger pangs whilst not hindering your workout due to faster digestibility. Some people tolerate eating food relatively close to the workout yet some people need a bit more time to feel comfortable before they can do anything, so the key thing to remember here is that everyone is different and that you might need to undergo a bit of trial and error before you get it right.
At the immediate ‘post-workout’ stage the body is in a catabolic state, meaning it’s breaking down muscle to fuel itself. During this 30-60 minute period, the body is primed to replenish its lost glycogen stores in the muscle and liver alongside repairing and building muscle tissue. This is a great window of opportunity to add in a protein and carb rich snack such as chicken breast and whole-wheat bread or a protein smoothie from a Fitness First Core Juice Bar. In my opinion I would opt for the liquid option at this stage, as it will be more easily absorbed than the solid foods and somewhat more palatable immediately after a grueling workout. As a rule of thumb, between 20 and 40 grams of protein is suitable at the post workout stage for optimal protein synthesis.
Timing your workout for optimal energy levels and digestive comfort is one thing, but you can also boost other aspects of your workout such as enhancing muscle building, prevention of muscle breakdown, more effective utilization of fats and higher levels of energy via the use of specific choices of commercially available workout supplements.
Fitness First Middle East Team