We're looking for great new physicians to join our team. Click here to learn more.

Pre-Workout & Post-Workout Nutrition Strategy

Lifestyle & Wellness | Facebook Live Recap | School of Muscular Health

What should you eat before you exercise? What should you eat after? How much should you eat? When should you eat?

We're going to discuss pre-workout and post-workout nutrition and give some examples of what to eat and guidelines as far as the quantity of those macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, that you can utilize to maximize your workout, and then also focus on recovery as well.

I did a blog in March primarily geared towards understanding what is a carbohydrate, what is a protein, and what is a fat, and how those affect a workout. And I encourage you to be able to go back and take a look at that video just to kind of get a baseline or a foundation of what those macronutrients provide for exercise.

But we're going to focus a little bit more on the specifics of pre-workout and post-workout nutrition and how you can utilize some of those specific examples at home.

Pre-Workout Nutrition: Fueling Your Activity

The pre-workout obviously is made to fuel your activity, whatever type of movement that you're going to be focusing on. Going for a walk, going to a group exercise class, going to a yoga workout, making sure that you have plenty of fuel in your body to take advantage of and enjoy that activity the most you possibly can is going to be important.

As far as being able to plan your pre-workout meal, the pre-workout meals should focus primarily on proteins and carbohydrates. Your body doesn't need a whole lot of fat to provide immediate energy sources. To better utilize your nutrition, focusing primarily on carbohydrates and proteins pre-workout is going to give you the best possible results.

With that being said, the amount of carbohydrates versus protein. Typically, it is recommended that you take your target body weight – so whatever your goal is in the long run – take that number and divide it by four. That's how many grams of proteins and carbs are recommended to take before a workout.

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, or your goal weight is 200 pounds, take 200 divided by four, that's going to be 50 grams, 50 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of protein prior to exercise, depending on your activity.

If you're going to be exerting a lot of energy, it might be recommended to have more, if you're just going for a walk around the neighborhood, maybe a little bit less. But as far as the general rule of thumb, take your target goal weight and divide that by four, and those are the grams of protein and carbs that you should have beforehand.

What to Eat Before You Exercise and When

Just a quick example of some foods that would be recommended to have beforehand - oatmeal with whole grain cereal; an apple with some sort of nut butter, like peanut butter or an almond butter; a trail mix that includes both nuts and fruit; greek yogurt; peanut butter and jelly; or a smoothie with protein powder is a quick, simple way, especially for those that are just on the run and they need something quick to be able to utilize for pre-nutrition.

Typically, I recommend eating one to three hours before you work out. Make sure that if you are getting up in the morning, you have something on the way to the gym, or if you are going after work, make sure that you bring something with you in order to fuel your workout.

Post-Workout Nutrition: Minimize and Replenish

Post-workout, that one is going to be a little bit more fun, because you can add some creative options to that. Focus on eating a post-workout meal within an hour after your workout. The goal of a post-workout meal is primarily geared towards minimizing muscle damage and replenishing your muscle glycogen that is the stored form of the carbohydrates (basically, making sure that you put those energy sources back in your system, so you can utilize them again); reduce cortisol, which is going to be your stress hormone; and then reduce muscle soreness, making sure that you fuel your muscles to recover more effectively.

Same thing, as far as the general recommendations, making sure that you take your target weight and divide that by four and trying to get about that many grams of carbs and protein in your meal post-workout as well.

For those that you know you're going to be out and it's going to be difficult to get a full meal in, protein shakes are typically okay, and then make sure you make an effort for a meal at least a couple of days a week to focus on whatever specific goal that you might have, whether it's muscle building or an overall weight reduction.

Also in addition to post-workout nutrition, taking your workout into consideration is something, from a weight loss perspective, that needs to be taken into consideration. If you had done a 30-minute yoga class and you didn't burn a whole lot of calories, but you got a great workout, it's going to be important to understand your overall caloric intake and ensuring that you have a caloric deficit for the day.

And so if you know that you need to be under a certain amount of calories for the day, make sure that you don't overdo it with that post-workout meal.

But for those that had a more intense workout and you are just exhausted walking out of the gym or walking off the track, it's making sure that you give yourself plenty of opportunity to set yourself up ahead of time, take a look at your schedule, and ensure that you're able to go home and make a meal, or have a meal ready, to make sure that you can just get right into that and compliment your workout the best you possibly can.

Access Wellness University & Certified Health Coaches

PartnerMD memberships include access to our members-only wellness program, Wellness University, which delivers more than 70 physician-approved courses and certified health coaching targeting the 4 areas most critical to your health, including stress and sleep, brain health, nutrition, and strength and mobility.

With offices in Richmond, VA; Midlothian, VA; Short Pump, VA; McLean, VA; Baltimore, MD; Greenville, SC; and Atlanta, GA, you can experience primary care built around you, one focused on wellness and prevention to help you stay as healthy as possible, as long as possible. Learn more about health coaching at PartnerMD