We’ve all heard the saying before, “You are what you eat.”
But what does that mean?
It means that the food we eat plays an important role in our health, well-being, and even how we look.
I think we all, for the most part, understand that what we eat is important. We all generally know how to eat well too.
I think we all know that some grilled chicken and rice is certainly a lot better for us than pizza.
What may not be as obvious to everyone is what we should be eating before and after a workout.
In this article, we’ll answer questions like why it’s beneficial to eat before working out, what you should eat before a workout, what to eat after your workout, what supplements to use, and even the importance of hydration.
Should I Eat Before a Workout?
You eat before working out for the same reasons you take certain supplements. You take them so you can have more energy, fuel your body, and help improve your workout performance.
It doesn't matter if you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your health, what you put into your body is important to help you reach your goal.
The same is true when it comes to deciding what to eat before your workout. What you fuel your body with will impact your performance and the results you earn from your workout.
Eating Before A Workout: What to Eat
Most food can be broken down into three macronutrients. You have your fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Each of these macros serves a purpose and when you understand their main roles and how the body uses them, you can better prioritize when you are fueling your body with them.
Let’s look at all three macronutrients in more detail.
Fats actually play an important role in the body. They’re useful for protecting and improving the nervous system, proper hormone production, help with nutrient absorption and much more!
So we definitely need fat in our diet. Most people actually get enough fat in their diet through eggs, fattier fish, nut butter, Olive oil, etc.
That being said, they’re not always the best thing to eat before working out.
Now, this doesn't mean to avoid all fats altogether, and some people do quite well with fats before a workout...
In most cases, for most people, working to have a lower fat meal before a workout can help keep stomach distress to a minimum.
Sure, an ounce of fat has more calories than an ounce of protein or carbs, but fats are slower-digesting and unless you are in ketosis or a fat adaptive athlete, it will typically be harder for your body to use it for fuel during the workout.
This macronutrient is crucial in your nutrition plan overall, as well as before a workout. Protein before a workout can help in a few ways.
Protein can help curb your hunger and keep you full during your training. If you get hungry midway through, it becomes more challenging to keep training hard until the end.
Adequate amounts of protein from a complete protein source can also help fuel your muscle tissue, help lessen muscle tissue catabolism, and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
In simple terms, this can help prevent excessive muscle breakdown, as well as priming the pump for recovery after you are done training!
Carbs come in two primary forms. You have simple, high-glycemic carbs and you have complex, low-glycemic carbs. Simple carbs are broken down and digested more rapidly, whereas complex carbs take longer to do so.
The simple carbs are good for short bursts of energy for short periods of time.
Complex carbs will give you longer lasting energy. So, how close your pre-workout meal is to your workout will help determine what type of carbs you should go for.
For example, if you're going to work out in say 30 minutes, a snack like a banana (simple and high glycemic carb) will digest more quickly, typically sit better in your stomach, and provide the energy your body needs for an effective workout better than eating a big bowl of oatmeal.
Oatmeal is a lower glycemic and complex carbohydrate that will take longer to digest and could sit heavy on your stomach if eaten that close to a workout.
Once again though, everyone is a bit different. So, play around a bit with different food options at different times before your workouts to figure out what will sit well in your stomach and help fuel you during your workout!
For post-workout though, the BEST thing you can give yourself is a simple, high-glycemic carbohydrate like Ignition ... as it can speed up recovery and help replenish glycogen stores faster than anything else.
This is where the post-workout stack is a phenomenal option after exercise, as it can help replenish your glycogen stores with ignition and provide adequate amounts of amino acids (from the protein in Phormula-1) for muscle protein synthesis to take place and help with the recovery process.
What Foods Should You Eat Before a Workout?
These are going to be best within 30-60 minutes prior to training. A good general rule of thumb for macros is:
Female: Protein - 20-30 grams, Carbs - 20-30 grams, Fats - 2-8 grams
Male: Protein - 30-40 grams, Carbs - 30-40 grams, Fats - 2-8 grams
Side Note: These are general guidelines, so remember to eat what feels good to you. Typically, lean protein and a simple carb source are best within 1 hour of training.
Here are 5 simple, yet effective snack pairings for what to eat before your workouts:
1) Greek Yogurt and Banana
2) Jerky and Apple
3) Lean Meat and Rice or Potato
4) Egg/Egg Whites and Toast with Honey
5) Protein Shake and Fruit
If you are more than 60 minutes out, that may be a good time for a complex carb. Basically, just eat a well-balanced meal that's in line with your goals.
What Supplements To Take Before A Workout
There are a variety of pre-workout supplements out there that can help fill your nutritional needs before a workout.
Sometimes it’s hard to get all of the nutrition you need from food alone. If your stomach can’t keep up with your workouts, there are different kinds of pre-workout supplements for you to take.
At 1st Phorm, we offer a variety of pre-workout and intra-workout supplements that can help you get the nutrition you need.
If you're like me and exercise first thing in the morning, and don't want to have to try and eat before the workout ... taking Ultra-Formance or Essential Amino Acids and/or a pre-workout of some kind can be a great combo! These can help give you the energy and amino acids you need to keep up with your workout.
Should You Work Out Before or After Breakfast?
When it comes to structuring your workout routine, one of the frequently asked questions is whether it's better to workout before or after breakfast.
Really, the answer to this question relies heavily on your personal preferences.I'll quickly cover the advantages and disadvantages to each options so you can decide what's best for you and your goals...
Before Breakfast: The Fasted Workout
Exercising on an empty stomach, often referred to as a "fasted workout," has gained popularity in recent years. The idea behind this approach is that your body may burn more stored fat as a primary energy source when glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrates) is low.
Here are some points to consider when opting for a fasted workout:
Lighter Feeling: For some, exercising on an empty stomach can make you feel lighter and more energetic during your workout.
Metabolic Benefits: Some studies suggest that fasted workouts may enhance insulin sensitivity.
However, it's essential to note that fasted workouts may not be suitable for everyone. Some potential downsides include:
Reduced Intensity: Workouts may lack intensity and endurance due to limited glycogen stores.
Lightheadedness: Fasting can lead to lightheadedness or dizziness during exercise.
After Breakfast: Fueling Your Workout
Exercising after a meal, particularly breakfast, can provide your body with the necessary nutrients and energy to power through your workout. Here are the advantages of working out after breakfast:
Energy: A pre-workout meal can provide the energy needed for a more intense and sustained workout.
Muscle Preservation: Consuming protein before exercise can help protect muscle tissue from being broken down.
Better Performance: A well-balanced breakfast can improve exercise performance and endurance.
On the flip side, working out after a meal may have some potential drawbacks, such as:
Digestive Discomfort: Heavy or high-fiber meals may lead to discomfort during your workout ... potentially even a trip to the bathroom in the middle of it too!
Delayed Start: You might need to wait a bit after eating to avoid exercise with a full stomach.
Finding Your Sweet Spot
The decision of whether to workout before or after breakfast depends on your personal preferences and your body's response. Here are some tips to help you find the right approach:
Experiment: Try both methods and observe how your body responds.
Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your energy levels, comfort, and performance.
Balance: You can also strike a balance by having a light meal or snack before your workout.
In the end, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to the "workout before or after breakfast" question. It's essential to choose the approach that aligns with your goals, suits your body, and ensures you enjoy your workouts.
Don’t Forget About Drinking
Water is also very important.
Drink it with your pre-workout.
Drink some with your meals.
Drink it while working out (just don't CHUG huge amounts).
And definitely drink it after your workout to help with recovery.
The importance of hydration cannot be overstated.
It’s recommended that you drink anywhere between 16-20 ounces of water in the hour leading up to a workout and about that same amount afterward. Just don't forget that proper hydration also comes down to having a sufficient amount of electrolytes too.
Now keep in mind though, your overall hydration level for the day ... how long you workout ... and how much you sweat will change that recommendation for you.
The main point to take away is that water is a crucial part of your fitness, your health, and your performance in the gym. So at a minimum, working to have 16-20 ounces leading up to your workout and the same amount after is a great starting point.
What To Eat After a Workout
Now that we've covered the importance of eating before a workout, let's talk about what you should do to replenish your body afterwards. What you consume after a workout can have a major impact on your recovery and muscle growth. So, what should you eat after a workout session?
Well, your post-workout should be geared to replenish your body's energy stores, and repair muscle tissue. Because of this, there are two things you want to look for in particular:
Protein for Muscle Repair
In order to begin repairing the muscle tissue you broke down from your workout, your body needs protein. This is where you should look to get a rapid digesting source of protein to jumpstart this process quickly.
Carbohydrates for Energy Restoration
What's arguably more important than protein after your workout is carbohydrates. A high-glycemic carbohydrate can help create an insulin spike to shuttle protein and other nutrients to the muscle for repair and growth.
Post-Workout Nutrition: What's Best?
Now, you could absolutely eat some chicken and rice after your workout ... but there are better options. In fact, post-workout may be the one time you should consider using supplements over whole-foods.
The reason I say this is because whole food protein and carbohydrate sources take time to digest and reach the muscle for repair and recovery.
With supplements designed for post-workout recovery, this is not the case. A high-quality post-workout stack will be designed to digest as quickly as possible to jumpstart recovery.
1st Phorm Can Help You Get Ready For Your Next Workout
Now that you know what you should be eating before a workout, we have a wide range of supplements to help you earn the results you want and improve your overall health. That includes improving your workouts!
Whatever your nutritional needs are, at 1st Phorm, we've got you covered.
And don't worry, if you don't know where to start ... just need some questions answered ... or want help with anything at all, we have a team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers & Fitness Nutrition Specialists to help you out for FREE! Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!ABOUT THE AUTHOR