The body has a natural clock or a rhythm that it moves to. Minute by minute, the body is working to synthesize nutrients, replace and repair cells, and deliver energy to the organs and muscles. This clock is affected by your lifestyle, including your workouts, which means that you can learn to synchronize with this internal clock and deliver nutrients in a timely manner.
Here is everything you need to know about eating on the clock.
About Nutrients and Timing
Research has uncovered a lot when it comes to getting the correct amount of carbohydrates and protein before and after a workout. Some studies have found that intense resistance training workouts that have a goal for increasing muscle size and strength should have 20-30 grams of protein and 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after training. But what about before your training?
Not eating enough pre-workout can result in dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and fatigue. You could more easily injure yourself, and your performance will suffer.
This means you need quick energy that can be digested easily and get absorbed into the muscles within 30 minutes prior to training. You should also have some proteins with high bioavailability. When you eat protein before a workout, you are priming your muscles with amino acids and other nutrients required for the recovery process.
If you have a sizable meal prior to working out, this should take place 2-3 hours before training. Otherwise, you won’t have digested enough, and that can make you feel sluggish.
Importance of Hydration
Although hydration is important during and after your workout, it is critical that you go into your workout hydrated. Check out the color of your urine. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that clear, light yellow urine means you’re hydrated, while dark-colored urine akin to apple juice means you’re dehydrated.
Drink about 2-3 cups of water at least 2-3 hours before your workout. After completing your training session, drink another cup within 10-20 minutes of finishing up. Additionally, pay attention to your hydration levels during your workout. For every 15-30 minutes of activity, you should drink about 1 cup of water to ward off dehydration, especially if you are sweating heavily or working in a heated environment.
Pre-Workout Food Ideas
First, the two macronutrients you need to focus on are carbs and protein. Carbohydrates are energy. In the body, carbs breakdown into glucose, and glucose is stored in the liver and muscles for energy. When you workout, you might even dip into the reserves, so you need a little extra prior to intense physical activity.
Quick energy carbohydrates are:
- Granola bars
- Fruit, like a banana, apple, or berries
- Vegetables like carrots, sugar snap peas, and broccoli
- Greek yogurt (non-fat plain)
- Dried fruit
- Whole grain crackers and Wasa bread
- Rice cakes
- Whole grain toast or sprouted grain bread
You will notice that some of the carbs in this list also have some protein. But you don’t want to overlook your protein either. For the reason mentioned in a previous section, you should consider adding the following protein sources to your pre-workout snack or meal:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Greek yogurt
- Turkey or other lean animal proteins
- Hardboiled eggs
- Milk or a milk-alternative
- Chickpeas and hummus
So, you can use these food examples to make a snack or you try a meal, such as the following:
- Smoothie bowls with berries, almond milk, and oatmeal
- A peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Rice cakes topped with nut butter or hardboiled egg
- Roasted chicken with brown rice and sauteed vegetables
- Baked salmon with quinoa and roasted carrots
- Falafel and hummus
Why You Need to Eat Post-Workout
This isn’t about the anabolic window. This is about timing the nutrient delivery to your muscles and empowering yourself while giving your muscles what they need to repair and grow. Post-workout, you want to focus on getting adequate proteins, carbohydrates, and fluids into the body, otherwise the recovery process will be hindered. Studies have found that consuming carbohydrates immediately after finishing a workout can maximize the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis.
In short, eating 30 minutes to 2 hours after a workout can help your body restore glycogen energy and nutrients that have been lost. However, the timing of this meal depends greatly on when you ate your pre-workout meal.
If you eat 30 minutes before your workout, then your post-workout meal can come about an hour up to 3 hours later.
If you ate 3 hours or longer before your workout, such as working out fasted or in the morning before breakfast, you should deliver nutrients to your muscles as soon as 30-45 minutes post-workout.
The intensity of your workout will ultimately determine the ratio of carbs to protein that you must eat.
Post-Workout Meal Ideas
Post-workout meals aren’t limited to a protein shake. Whether you workout in the morning, afternoon, or evening, there’s a meal that can follow and deliver the correct nutrition to your muscles to prompt repair and recovery. Here are some ideas to help you with your meal-planning and menu:
- Boneless, skinless chicken breast, brown rice, and steamed/roasted broccoli
- A smoothie made with milk or milk-alternative, fruits, vegetables, and a spoonful of any kind of nut butter
- Scrambled eggs or an omelet with vegetables and sweet potato hash
- Peanut butter and pancakes (skip the sugary jam and used with fresh or frozen blueberries or diced apple)
Avocado, lettuce, and tomato on a whole wheat bun
You can also enjoy snacks that the American Council of Exercise (ACE) recommends:
- Non-fat Greek yogurt with a banana
- Sliced banana and 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- Low-fat chocolate milk or milk-alternative
- Whole grain toast and albacore tuna
- Whole wheat bread or pita topped with hummus and turkey or plant-protein, like sauteed mushrooms
- Protein shake (2 scoops protein) with ½ cup banana (or your favorite fruit) blended with water
The beauty of eating on the clock is that everyone’s clock is different, and so you need to listen to your body. Everyone has specific nutritional needs that can be addressed both pre- and post-workout—but the important thing is to eat what your body needs to grow, adapt, and change according to your training goals!
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