How Important are Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meals?

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question-icon-newI have a muscle building diet based inquiry and it involves the foods that I eat after my morning weight training workout. I eat my breakfast within 30 minutes to an hour after I get finished training. I usually eat 4 egg whites scrambled, 1 bowl of fruit and 1 slice of whole wheat bread. Is it okay to add in a few sausage links or some chicken to this meal? My other meals are light throughout the day. I’ve been working out for about 1.5 years now and I really want to bulk up and gain some muscle mass. Is this the best post-workout meal to eat for my goals or should I make some changes?

answer-icon-newIf your main goal is to pack on the most amount of muscle mass then you definitely don’t want to be eating “light” at anytime throughout the day. You need to be focused on saturating your muscles with the most high quality nutrients which will provide the proper amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in order to stimulate muscle growth. When it comes to nutrition, make sure to treat your body like a high performance race car. You would never put cheap, low quality fuel into a race car, so don’t put it into your body! Choose the highest octane super foods that will give you tons of energy for your gut busting weight lifting workouts so you can absolutely annihilate each muscle group and break down the fibers so they can rebuild to get bigger and stronger.

The post-workout meal that you are currently eating after your workouts is not the ideal choice for your goals of packing on pounds of lean muscle tissue. The biggest reason for this is due to the process of digestion, which takes time to break down whole foods before utilizing the nutrients. If you eat a meal after you train, you will have to wait a while for all that food to go through your digestive system and certain foods take much longer than others to digest, so that makes it even worse.

The way to combat this issue with waiting for digestion to run its course is to drink a liquid shake post-workout. Drinking a shake will help the protein and carbs to get into your system much faster which will really help to rush the nutrients to your much needed muscles during this time. There is a critical window of opportunity that you need to take advantage of post-workout and drinking a shake very soon after training is one of the key things you should be doing to optimize the muscle building process.

post-workout-meal-shakeNow that we have explained why the post-workout meal needs to actually be a liquid shake, it’s very important to discuss the specific ingredients that should go into the shake itself. It’s extremely important to choose the right sources of protein and carbs or you will be right back in the position of waiting for the nutrients to get working for your screaming muscles.

For protein, the best choice is a super fast acting source like whey that will get utilized very quickly. Go to your local vitamin or supplement store and ask the employees which whey protein powders they recommend. Choose the one that best fits your budget and satisfies your taste buds since many come in lots of different and delicious flavors. Once you have your whey protein powder, you’re half way home and just need to choose a quality, high glycemic source of carbs to add to your shake.

The reason you want a fast acting carbohydrate source is because your goal post-workout is to actually spike insulin levels in order to rush all of those nutrients into the cells for recovery and rebuilding. Insulin is a storage hormone and it will take all of those carbs and refill glycogen levels and take the protein and drive it into the cells of the muscle. The best form of carbohydrates to choose from include dextrose, waxy-maize starch and maltodextrin. Ask the employee at the vitamin store what they recommend for a post-workout carb supplement that has these key ingredients. Most of the time, they will have a few tubs of pure waxy-maize starch or dextrose that are very cheap in price. The only issue with these stand alone carb supplements is the overall taste. They are usually very bland and don’t go very well when added to a protein powder if you want something that is enjoyable to drink post-workout. If you don’t really care about the taste and your overall concern is on your budget, then this option will definitely save you the most money.

If you want to spend a little more money, choose a post-workout supplement that has everything in one product and comes with a fast acting source of carbs along with muscle building ingredients like L-Glutamine and creatine. Several companies make quality post-workout supplements that have fantastic breakdowns in terms of the ingredients and the flavors taste amazing as well.

Once you have chosen your carbohydrate supplement, just add a few scoops of it to your shaker bottle along with a few scoops of whey protein powder and you’re all set for a killer post-workout muscle building shake to chug down after your high intensity weight training session! Your goal should be anywhere from 60-100 grams of carbs and 20-40 grams of protein for the macronutrient breakdown in your post-workout shake. Avoid adding any fat to the mix since fat will only slow down digestion and you really want to have the highest level of fast acting nutrients at this time to spike insulin and get everything where it needs to go quickly.

Along with your post-workout shake, what you eat before your workout is also critically important. Before training, your goal is to supply your body with slower acting carbohydrates which are lower on the glycemic index and give you long-lasting and sustained energy for your hard workouts.

Below are some great options for pre-workout meals to eat 30-45 minutes before your weight training workout:

Pre-Workout Meals:

  • Oatmeal with Protein Powder
  • Protein Powder with Banana
  • Egg Whites with Whole Wheat Toast
  • Oatmeal with Egg Whites

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