It’s no secret that nutrition is one of the most important aspects of building muscle, increasing strength and losing body fat. Having the proper diet and intake of nutrients can make or break your fitness goals as well as your all around health. Getting the right foods pre and post workout are of the utmost concern.
Nutrition consists of three different departments: proteins, carbs and fats. Within these categories, there are both good and bad sources of nutrients.
Proteins are the quintessential muscle builder and recovery food. But, like anything else, there are better protein sources as well as sub-par ones. Lean meats are generally described as the best protein source imaginable, aside from protein shakes. Other lean proteins are found in egg whites, turkey breast, chicken breast and fish. They are healthy for you because of the high amount of protein in comparison to the extremely low amount of fat.
Carbohydrates are the next category of nutrients that your body needs for optimal health. This source is also used for muscle recovery, but is most beneficial in the way of providing energy. If the body doesn’t have energy to exercise and maintain its function, there will be no ability to advance muscle growth. Thus, keeping the body at a standstill and even worse, losing muscle and energy. Carbs consist of breads, rice, wheat products, yogurt and fruit.
Finally, we get to fats. Otherwise known as the most misunderstood category of the three macronutrient categories. Healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated fats, omega-3’s and monounsaturated fats do more for the body than most people know. They help manage weight, keep your mind sharp, fight fatigue and even play a vital role in your emotional moods. These healthy fats consist of different types of oils, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and fattier fish like salmon and tuna.
Knowing the importance of each category of macronutrients and different foods will benefit your workouts like you wouldn’t believe. But knowing when to eat each food source is even more important.
Pre-workout nutrition is just as important as post-workout nutrition. Knowing what to eat before you set foot in the gym or get on your bicycle to ride can make a good workout better, or a better workout phenomenal!
Carbohydrates, because of their natural ability to produce increased energy levels, should be consumed pre-workout. Now, I’m not saying that you should go ahead and eat your body weight in brown rice before a lifting session, but having two pieces of whole grain toast or a Greek yogurt with granola could dramatically enhance your energy levels and feeling of strength once you start lifting those dumbbells. I am a firm believer in pre-workout carbs and a lot of times it’s all I need to get my head in the game before an intense gym session.
Post-workout nutrition is a little more involved. This is where we get into protein shakes, carbing up and muscle recovery. When it comes to nutrition post workout, protein is single-handedly the most essential nutrient source your body can take in. Have you ever seen those guys walking out of the gym once they have finished working out with a bottle of what looks like chocolate milk already in hand? Yeah, that’s not chocolate milk. It’s a protein shake. Like I mentioned above, protein is made up of amino acids and these are the building blocks for muscle construction.
When we lift weights, our body is ripping those muscle fibers apart. Thus, forcing them to swell up, which is why your chest will get bigger and “swole” or swollen, after a few sets on the bench press. In order for that muscle to get bigger and stronger, it needs to be given a protein source that goes in and rebuilds the muscle stronger, harder and bigger. But, in order for this to happen, we need to give the muscle group that was just exercised a substantial amount of recovery time. But as soon as you put down the weights your muscles go into repair mode. This is exactly why it is so important to get that intake of protein as soon as possible after a lifting session.
Carbs are also a necessary part of post-workout nutrition. They provide quicker muscle recovery as well as increased energy after a tiring exercise session. Remember this equation:
Protein + Carbs = Post Workout Perfection
I know I said that fats were the most misunderstood nutritional component. And, this is no exception. The time of intake of fat sources is much less specific for optimal health. Some say that you should ingest healthy fats before bed in order to promote a slower protein breakdown over the course of the night. Others say that early in the morning and throughout the day are the best times to eat fats. Ultimately, you have to find what feels the best for you. Consuming fats can leave your stomach feeling heavy. This is the main reason why I take in fats early in the morning as well as little amounts throughout the day. For me, this mostly consists of a handful of nuts every few hours. But it can really be any healthy fat source that you prefer.
If you follow these nutritional guidelines you should notice a more well-rounded, energized and stronger feeling within a few days or weeks. Like I mentioned above, getting the right nutrition at the right time will drastically improve your strength, energy and overall feeling of health and wellness. So get to it! The road to results is right in front of your very eyes!