You just packed your bag with your favorite gym outfit and new badass shoes, your motivation is through the roof, you open the fridge door and – ugh. You know you need energy before heading to the gym, but you don’t know if what you are planning on eating is TOO MUCH energy. Who wants to gain fat when that food was to ironically help you in the following gym session? Here’s a quick guide on what to eat before and after training!
The food you ingest before going to the gym acts like ammunition, you don’t want to go to the battlefield without any bullets. The specific nutritional value that qualifies as our main source of energy are carbohydrates. Long story short, carbohydrates are long chains of sugars that are broken down into simple sugars during digestion such as dextrose, fructose, sucrose for example. The fun part is that these carbohydrates can be paired with fiber, protein or fat, which will ensure a more gradual dose of sugar during digestion. These are called complex carbohydrates and are the healthiest you can find. Brown whole-grain bread, quinoa, brown rice, black beans, oatmeal are all perfect examples of complex carbs.
That being said, if you eat complex carbohydrates and protein together between 1 to 2 hours before your workout, your body has everything it needs to be put to the test and push its limits.
That’s pretty cool, but how much do you need? Before training you need more carbs (energy) than protein, since protein acts more in the muscle repair mechanism, and your muscles aren’t broken down YET.
This is why, to build muscle mass, the optimal carb to protein ratio in this meal is about 2:1, so 5 grams of carbs for every gram of protein in your meal. If you are trying to cut, I suggest a 1:1 ratio.
Good examples for a 2:1 pre workout meal is a brown bread egg sandwich, whole-grain pasta and chicken, salmon and brown rice, etc.
To give you an extra kick, you can also take fast acting carbs 30 minutes before your workout like fruits, bananas and oranges are also well known to be eaten by bodybuilders just before their training because of the fast sugars and good source of vitamins.
If you take pre workout formulas (I am talking about the ones containing caffeine and taurine making you want to destroy everything at the gym by going beast mode), it is best to take it to take it 30-45 minutes before the session, and especially load up with water since it acts as a dehydrator!
The first meal after training is as crucial as breakfast, known by many to be the most important meal of the day, so DO NOT neglect it!
Your muscles just went through hell and there is only one thing they want right now: repair and replenish glycogen.
To do so, you need to provide fast digesting protein with carbs to give the muscles the nutriments they need to rebuild. Fortunately, whey protein starts to digest at about the half hour mark, a perfect ally to your repair process. The carbs you need right after training are also fast acting carbs, unlike the complex carbs mentioned earlier.
Honey, dextrose and maltodextrin are all excellent carbohydrate sources post workout. Just like the pre workout carb to protein proportions, I highly suggest a 2:1 ratio.
This translate in depending on your weight, you should take from 20-50g of protein and 40-100g of these carbs 30 minutes after your gym session (let’s say the lower scale is if you are about 100lbs and the higher scale you are about 200lbs).
One hour after your shake, have a meal with approximately the same ratio, but with a larger quantities, and you are all set for maximum muscle recuperation and to kill it at the gym the next day!