Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Nutrition Ideas

It’s important to take it upon ourselves to learn about fitness and nutrition, because knowledge really is power. Our bodies are amazing machines and the more we learn about how they function, the more apt we are to take good care of them.

Remember that there is no magic pill, potion, or product that will do the work for you. At the outset, there will be some trial and error as you embark upon your new lifestyle. When you make a mistake, or fall off the fitness wagon, forgive yourself. Pick yourself up, dust off, and keep moving forward.

NUTRITION

It is impossible to discuss strength training without addressing nutrition. A common saying that you will hear in the gym is “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” If we continue to consume too many nutrient-empty calories in the form of processed, sugary “foods” without the right balance of macro-nutrients, our efforts with strength training will end in frustration. For example, a 150-pound person would need to run for about 45 minutes or vigorously lift weights for about 50 minutes to burn 500 calories. It would be infinitely easier to substitute that 500-calorie muffin with an apple, but it’s not only about restricting calories for fat loss. Proper nutrition is also about creating the necessary environment to build and strengthen our muscles, which in turn helps increase our metabolic rate.

Micro- and Macronutrients

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that our bodies require to remain in good health. They play an important role in human development and wellness, including the regulation of metabolism, heartbeat, and bone density. They can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, and organ meats, among other sources.

Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. A good ratio for building muscle is 25 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 20 percent fat, for both men and women. Some nutritionists recommend a ratio of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat as a good target for healthy weight loss. To function optimally, our bodies need a good balance of micro- and macronutrients.

Protein

Protein (1 gram = 4 calories) is a key nutrient for gaining strength and size, losing fat, and controlling hunger.

In order to increase muscle mass, the recommendation for active adults is to consume between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of your goal body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of your goal body weight.

Based on a daily (low) caloric intake of 1500 calories, protein intake should run between 375 and 450 calories, with the higher amount recommended for weight loss. For reference, one chicken thigh contains 13.5 grams of protein and about 110 calories.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (1 gram = 4 calories) often get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight gain. But carbohydrates aren’t all bad. They provide fuel for the brain and energy for our muscles. In general, carbohydrates should make up approximately 40 to 45 percent of your daily caloric intake for weight loss and 55 to 60 percent for maintenance.

It’s important to stick with the complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are “foods” with added sugars and refined grains, such as sugary drinks, desserts, and candy, which are packed with useless calories.

Examples of complex carbs are:

» Fiber-rich fruits (raspberries, apples, avocado)

» Vegetables (broccoli, acorn squash, peas, Brussels sprouts) » Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, pistachios)

» Whole grains (bulgur, barley, amaranth, rye)

» Seeds (chia, flax, sesame)

» Legumes (lima beans, lentils, kidney beans)

Fat

Dietary fat (1 gram = 9 calories) provides energy and helps with nutrient absorption, as well as brain and nerve function. Some unsaturated fatty acids are essential nutrients, meaning that we need to get these fats from food because our bodies can’t make them. Fats and oils also add flavor and make you feel full longer and should make up about 20 percent of your daily caloric intake.

The two types of fats are saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature while unsaturated fats are liquid. Unsaturated fats are considered the healthiest type of dietary fat. Choosing unsaturated instead of saturated fats may help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Pre-Workout Nutrition Ideas

LIGHT MEALS

Depending on the timing of your workout, eating a small meal an hour before your workout may be in order, rather than just an energy snack. Your small meal should be made up of equal parts lean protein and carbs.

Examples include:

» Two boiled eggs with whole-grain toast and sliced tomatoes

» Whey protein isolate smoothie with fruit, including 1⁄2 banana, berries, or apples

» Brown rice or long-grain white rice with half of a chicken breast, or salmon and steamed broccoli

» Small bowl of wheat pasta with tomato and 1⁄3 cup of meat sauce

» Salad greens, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, dried cranberries with 1⁄2 cup

of diced chicken

» Whole-grain bagel with smoked salmon, thinly sliced onion, and a thin layer of cream cheese

» Vegan kale Caesar salad with tempeh bacon

» Chicken breast and a stuffed baked potato with asparagus

» Greek salad with half of a grilled chicken breast

» Mediterranean couscous salad with a fresh lemon herb dressing, feta cheese, olives, and chickpeas

SNACKS

Eating lightly around half an hour before your workout will allow you to head in with maximum energy. Combining a complex carbohydrate with a lean protein is the best way to fuel your body.

Examples include:

» A banana with almond butter

» Multigrain crackers with hummus

» Whole-grain bread with unsweetened peanut butter

» 1⁄2 cup of oatmeal with raisins or berries

» Rice cake with peanut butter and sliced apple

» Bowl of plain Greek yogurt with blueberries and granola

Post-Workout Nutrition Ideas

LIGHT MEALS

In general, we want to eat a combination of protein, fats, and carbohydrates before and after our workouts, but our pre-workout should be more carb-dense, and our post-workout nutrition should be more protein-dense.

Examples include:

» Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables

» Two-egg omelet with roasted veggies and whole-grain toast

» 6 ounces of tenderloin steak with brown rice and broccoli

» Salmon with quinoa and green beans

» Prawns, egg pasta noodles, and green salad with oil and vinegar dressing

» Pork tenderloin with roasted veggies and sweet potato

» Avocado and tomato on whole-grain or sourdough toast with Havarti cheese

» Burrito with beans, brown rice, guacamole, and salsa

» Tofu with mushrooms and broccoli

» Chicken salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and spinach with lemon and olive oil dressing

SNACKS

For those times when you just need to replenish yourself after a workout but aren’t ready for a full meal:

» Goat cheese, rice crackers, and olives

» Cottage cheese and fruits

» Pita and hummus

» Protein shake with Greek yogurt and berries

» Handful of almonds or walnuts with goji berries

Hydration

Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy for every system in your body. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation.

In general, you should drink 16 to 32 ounces of fluid every 60 minutes while exercising. For exercise lasting less than one hour, drink only water. However, if it’s excessively hot or humid, a sports drink can be a healthy option. For exercise lasting longer than one hour, drink water, a high-quality sports drink, or both for optimal hydration.

Supplements

First and foremost, do your best to derive nutrients from your foods. However, you may wish to supplement your diet if you suspect you’re not getting enough in the food you eat.

B12

Your body uses B12 to fight germs and to make energy. You need more B12 as

you get older. It helps your body produce red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles.

Calcium and Magnesium

Together, magnesium and calcium are crucial to bone health. Without magnesium, calcium can become toxic to the kidneys, arteries, and cartilage, rather than being deposited in the bones where it’s most needed.

Vitamin D

This vitamin helps you absorb calcium, and it can help prevent osteoporosis. It also helps the function of your muscles, nerves, and immune system. Most people get some vitamin D from sunlight, but our body is less able to convert the sun’s rays to vitamin D as you age.

Fish Oil

The fatty acids contained in fish oil have several benefits for muscle building, such as reduced muscle soreness. The American Heart Association recommends that people with coronary heart disease take omega-3 fatty acids (the kind found in fish) to prevent heart attacks.

Protein Powder

If you feel that you are having a tough time eating enough protein, you may want to invest in a good protein powder. The various protein powders on the market are a way to ensure that you’re getting enough protein to effectively build muscle. There are even some vegan-friendly options on the market. Add a scoop to a smoothie and you’ll be good to go!

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed, provide a host of health benefits. Some yeasts can also function as probiotics, but bacteria are the most common source of probiotics. The gut contains many other microorganisms that are being studied, including viruses, fungi, and also archaea and helminths.

Supplements and foods that contain bacterial fermentation are good sources of probiotics. The supplement Biofit, for example, claims to contain billions of CFU and diverse types of bacteria. It might benefit those who are bloated or have a lowered immunity, as well as those who are overweight or underweight. However, you should read some Biofit reviews before making any purchase because the supplement industry is rife with scams.

YOUR GEAR AND YOUR GYM

This article will give you both home workouts that you can do with a few pieces of equipment and workouts that you can do in the gym, if that’s your preference. If there are days that you just can’t get to the gym or you prefer to exercise at home, it’s handy to have two or three varieties of weights and strengths of dumbbells and/or resistance bands.

Some people begin strength training by doing bodyweight exercises at home, and then progressing over time to the use of weights and/or resistance bands. Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start, but remember that your body will not get stronger if you don’t progressively add resistance.

Resistance bands

These exercise bands are useful tools for taking your workout with you while traveling. My clients travel a lot and they love taking their bands with them on their adventures in order to keep their strength up while away. Band exercises are surprisingly effective and inexpensive. Anything you can do with dumbbells, you can do with these bands.

Dumbbells

If working out at home, please refer to the article for weight suggestions. You may soon find that you are back at the sporting goods store looking for heavier dumbbells as your body gets stronger. Basically, you will use the lighter weights for your smaller muscles (like arms and shoulders) and the heavier weights for your larger muscles (like your chest, back, and legs).

Shoes

For both home and gym, be sure you have a pair of good athletic shoes. I am a fan of the lighter sports shoes rather than the very thick-soled, heavy athletic shoes that you can find on the market. However, if you have foot issues and have been specifically advised by your doctor, be sure to follow their advice regarding footwear. If you are a runner and own specific running shoes, feel free to wear those while you lift weights.

Water bottle

I suggest you keep a refillable water bottle with you while you’re exercising and throughout the day. That way you can keep track of your hydration and avoid potential dehydration or even heat exhaustion.

Gloves

You also may want to invest in a pair of durable weightlifting gloves to keep your palms callous-free.

REST AND RECOVERY

You may hear about the importance of exercise and the negative effects of inactivity, but it’s not as common to hear about why you also need to allow your body time to rest. Resting is equally as important as working out for building muscle.

Rest

Getting enough rest between workouts allows your muscles the opportunity to rebuild and regenerate before your next session. The recommended amount of rest time between strength sessions targeting the same muscle groups is 48 hours. But “rest” doesn’t mean that we don’t move at all. On your days off, go for a nice long walk, attend a Zumba class, or do some restorative yoga.

Sleep

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is crucial for strength training recovery, since it is during this time that protein synthesis and human growth hormones are released, allowing for muscle repair and recovery.

With too little sleep, the body is more likely to produce the stress hormone cortisol. I won’t get into the science of it all, but know that studies have shown that there is a definite connection between lack of sleep and the elevation of cortisol levels, which can contribute to atrophy in both muscle and bone, as well as weight gain.

How to Evaluate Need for Recovery

After a good strength training workout, expect to feel some muscle soreness the next day or even two days later. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Rest assured you won’t always be feeling muscle soreness; but in the beginning, when you push harder, or when you change up your program, you will probably feel some muscle soreness. This is all normal and perfectly safe.

However, if you’re feeling excessive fatigue after a workout, you may have pushed too hard. If that happens, simply go a little easier next time. Get your rest, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and keep going.

GET PUMPED: GOAL WORKSHEET

I often tell my clients that if they are to be successful with maintaining their strength training motivation, it is imperative to find their “Why.” I explain the difference between inspiration and motivation by saying that inspiration comes from outside of oneself, while motivation comes from within.

Consider asking yourself any of the following, if you are in search of your motivation:

» How do I want to interact with my children/grandchildren? Do I want to be enjoying the ski slopes or the ocean with them rather than always sitting on the sidelines as a spectator?

» How do I see my future travels? Am I willing to settle for not being able to climb the hill to see the view, scramble around the ruins, or keep up with the tour?

» Am I willing to allow weakened joints to sideline me from my favorite hikes and sports?

» I’ve heard that strength training will help me with my depression/anxiety/mood. Am I willing to try everything I can to elevate my mood naturally?

» I’ve heard that strength training helps with cognitive health. Am I willing to do whatever I can to maintain a healthy brain?

» I want to maintain an active and fun sex life, but am I willing to risk losing that by not maintaining my strength and my vital energy?

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