Let’s talk about nutrition for workouts! If you want to perform at your absolute best each day, nutrition could be THE THING that separates you from the pack. What we eat matters. Food can help us to fuel and recover from our workouts. It does not have to be rocket science, and it does not have to involve counting macros either, but we should be paying attention to what we are putting into our bodies to get the most out of our training. If you ever feel like you are hitting a wall during a workout, experiencing nausea, or noticing slower recovery, then taking a deeper look at your workout nutrition could really help you out!
It is not as important what you eat right before or after a workout, but what you are eating throughout the entire day that matters most. The more diversity you have in your diet of whole foods, varied protein sources, and micronutrients from fruits and vegetables, the better! Nutrient timing for a workout can help, but it is not going to radically change your performance or physique if you are eating low nutrient foods the rest of the day.
The recommendations that will be laid out will apply to ‘most’ people following a standard diet. Of course, every body is different and just because one thing works for one person, does not mean it will work best for you. It is always worth testing a few things out with both foods and nutrient timing to find what makes you feel and perform your best.
Let’s get into some of the science first. The human body prefers to use carbohydrates as its primary energy source, for mind and for muscles. It is the most readily available and the easiest for it to access. The role of eating carbohydrates before exercise is to provide immediate and lasting energy, preserve muscle and liver glycogen, and stimulate the release of insulin (when combined with protein) which improves protein synthesis and prevents protein breakdown. This is why it is most common to place extra carbohydrates before and after your workout, along with a little bit of protein.  We try to keep fats lower in our pre and post workout meals because they tend to slow digestion and interfere with the absorption of the carbohydrates.
A good goal for pre workout nutrition would be to eat a mix of high and low glycemic carbohydrates with some lean protein, in the 1-2 hours before your workout. For a great list of high and low glycemic index carbs click HERE. The high glycemic carbohydrates will be easy to access right away, while the lower glycemic carbohydrates absorb more slowly and can provide lasting energy without spiking insulin. To keep fats on the lower end we would want to avoid things with higher fat contents around the workout windows. Examples of items high in fat could be anything more than 1 TBS nut butter, 2+ pieces of bacon/sausage, 2+ whole eggs, certain protein or meal replacement bars, beef burgers, pastries, breakfast burritos, fried foods, lots of cheese or full fat dairy. Some ideas for a pre workout meal could be:
skinless chicken breast/turkey + rice or sweet potato + steamed leafy greens or veggies
cold soaked or instant oatmeal + nonfat Greek yogurt + half banana
rice cake, bagel or whole grain toast + 1 TBS nut butter + jam + part of a whey protein shake
Note: If you are short on time and need to eat within 15-30 minutes of a workout, opt for something fast digesting and small, like a Fuel for Fire squeeze pack, dates/figs, applesauce, or a banana. Alternately, you could have a whey protein shake or BCAA drink here and try get more carbohydrates in AFTER the workout.
Speaking of after the workout, what are we looking for in a post workout meal? We want to aim for a similar set up here and eat/drink something with both lean protein and higher glycemic carbohydrates within 1-2 hours following training to replenish our depleted glycogen quickly and prevent protein breakdown. This will help us maintain and build our muscles!
We have lots of options at the gym to fill your needs if you forget to plan out your meals, such as Ascent Protein (whey – fast absorbing, and casein – slow absorbing), Fuel for Fire, Kill Cliff/Fit Aid drinks and MUSH overnight oats.
Any suggestions in this post are from my own education and experience as a nutrition coach. You should always consult with your doctor if you need specific guidance or recommendations on your nutrition.
-Coach Amy Locati
 Alan Aragon, The Lean Muscle Diet (USA, Rodale, 2014) 23.
 St. Pierre, Brian, Precision Nutrition ,“Workout Nutrition Explained”, Accessed October 2019. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/workout-nutrition-explained
 Working Against Gravity, Nutrition Guide, Accessed October 2019. https://www.workingagainstgravity.com/nutrition-guide