As mentioned in our October 16, 2011 Recovery and Regeneration Focus Point, training doesn’t confine itself to the gym. In fact, what you do prior to walking through the doors and after you exit is arguably as or more important than what you do while you are there. This is especially true when it comes to nutrition. In order to make your workouts as effective as possible, preparing for them and recovering from them is an essential key to success.

Below are a few key points regarding the type and timing of your nutrition intake as it relates to your ability to perform effectively. If you just don’t seem to be getting the results you’re looking for from your workouts, this information will hopefully make you “think again” about the possibility that nutrition could be your missing link.

Eating before strenuous exercise, as opposed to exercising in a fasted state, has been shown to improve performance. A carbohydrate rich meal with a little protein helps top off glycogen stores to sustain energy, build lean body mass and reduce muscle-soreness after exercise.

Consider the following 3-4 hours before a workout:

  • Turkey sandwich with avocado + apple
  • Oatmeal with small amount of brown sugar, almonds + hard-boiled egg
  • Greek yogurt, granola and berry parfait
  • Low fat cottage cheese, crackers, carrots and hummus

15-30 minutes before exercise, the following snacks would be reasonable:

  • Banana
  • Applesauce
  • Low fat yogurt
  • Sports drink, gel or bar
  • ½ Jam sandwich

*Research has shown that  a small amount of protein (~ 1 oz)  right before exercise can be beneficial to aid in performance and recovery.*

After a strenuous training session, proper nutrition is a must.

  • It replenishes muscle and liver glycogen stores,
  • promotes maintenance of lean tissue,
  • enhances the building of lean body mass,
  • aids muscle repair.

Ideally, consume food and/or beverages that contain a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is ideal (15 grams carb: 7 grams protein). Suggestions for a post-workout meal/snack are below:

  • Yogurt
  • Fruit and piece of cheese or ¼ C nuts
  • Chocolate milk
  • Sports bar w/protein
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter

Timing is also important.  For optimal recovery, consume your post-workout meal immediately after you train. After strenuous exercise, our muscles are depleted and require an abundance of protein and carbohydrate.  Additionally, they are biochemically “primed” for nutrient uptake. We often refer to this as the “magic recovery window”. To illustrate how quickly this window closes, research has shown that consuming a post-exercise meal immediately after working out is superior to consuming one only 1 hour later. In addition, consuming one 1 hour later is superior to consuming one 3 hours later (Tipton et al 2001, Levenhagen et al 2001). If you wait too long, glycogen replenishment and protein repair will be compromised.

As an active individual, developing nutrition strategies that optimize your fitness goals and overall health can be a balancing act. By taking a close look at your routine and potentially incorporating some of the aforementioned pre and post workout ideas, you will be well on your way to successfully achieving your goals!


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