Updated: Sep 30, 2018
Pre and post workout nutrition is something that many people focus on immediately when 'getting into fitness'. The post workout protein shake for example, is seen as absolutely essential. The simple truth is, if you are new to fitness:
You don’t need a special pre and post workout nutrition strategy.
Who needs it then?
Physique / bikini /bodybuilding competitors
Other people that do similar things
Who could benefit?
Those who may not compete, but are serious about their performance or physique and are willing to invest more time in it.
If you are new to fitness / just getting into training / just want to lose a few lbs you should focus on this:
Hitting your daily calorie and macronutrient (and micronutrient) requirements to meet your goal.
Then, and only then, consider meal timing and meal composition if you want to give time to it. I won't make a huge difference to progress, so don't expect it to.
Worth noting: You do not need to add in extra meals to you daily routine as ‘pre and post workout meals’, similarly do not need a post workout shake.
Pre and post workout nutrition strategy:
This is the pre and post workout nutrition strategy that I follow on my training days. You will notice I eat normal food and I do not take lot of supplements. It is loose guide that is appropriate for a person that wants to:
Improve strength performance during their sessions.
Improve recovery and lean body mass creation.
1-2 hours prior to working out.
A meal, roughly 20-40g protein, 30-70g carbs, minimal fat (these figures are individual dependant).
Salt on this meal.
15-30min prior to training:
Caffeine if desired (3-6mg/kg bodyweight, depending on the individual).
3-5 hours after the previous meal.
Another meal with similar macro composition.
Roughly 20-40g protein, 30-70g carbs, and minimal fats (all dependent on your macros).
Salt on this meal.
A shake could be included as part of either meal for protein, or not included in your diet at all.
I eat carbs before training to fuel my workout. Carbs also stimulate insulin release which when combined with protein, improves protein synthesis and prevents (muscle) protein breakdown. I eat protein to spare muscle breakdown and improve recovery.
I don’t eat a lot of fat pre and post workout as fat slows digestion. For normal life/ non training days this is not an issue but when considering nutrition for performance & gains it could be sub optimal. Slowing digestion will mean slowing the rate that glucose and amino acids enter the bloodstream. It’s not a huge deal but it can mean feeling less energetic prior to training which can impact my performance. Post workout it could mean my muscles will receive the amino acids they need for repair and the glucose they need to replenish glycogen slower. Again, not a huge deal but all under the hood of ‘considering nutrient timing’ if you are serious about your training.
I include salt on my meals as sodium in the diet is necessary, particularly for those who train and sweat a lot. Salt is not bad. Not having enough sodium in the system can be very bad. Intaking salt is appropriate for everyone who does not have high blood pressure. See @cleanslatewellbeing ’s post on salt for more info.
This advice is not appropriate for: an endurance athlete, a professional athlete, someone training 2x a day, someone doing a physique show to trying to drop to single digit body fat etc.
"Previous work recommends covering the bases by ingesting protein at 0.4–0.5 g/kg of lean body mass in both the pre- and post-exercise periods (Aragon & Schoenfeld, 2013). This seems to be a prudent approach in the face of uncertainty regarding the optimization of nutrient timing factors for the objectives of muscle hypertrophy and strength."