Workout nutrition explained. What to eat before, during, and after exercise. |

If you want to be the best you can be, you need to know what to eat before, during, and after your workout. We all know that we need to eat more calories than we burn each day in order to maintain our weight, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. A key part of a healthy diet is a workout nutrition plan. But not a lot of people know what they should be eating before, during, and after a workout.

How do you know if you’re eating enough before, during, or after your workout? Well, that’s easy. You do it just like you do your normal everyday diet. You have a goal to reach, and if you can’t reach it, you’ve got some places to check. Water is the first thing you need to consider, but what about food? Are you eating enough of it? If you’re not, you may find yourself famished. That’s why I decided to write this blog.

If you are looking for tips on what to eat before, during, or after exercise, then you should check out this article. To understand what foods are the best to consume before, during, or after exercise, you should first understand how what foods are good for you.. Read more about what to eat after a workout to build muscle and let us know what you think.

We are all aware that what we eat has a significant impact on our health. What about while you’re eating? Especially if you’re a sportsperson?

In this post, we’ll go through the research on workout nutrition and provide practical advice on what to eat before, during, and after your activity.

[As an added bonus, we made a beautiful infographic to summarize this post.] Click here for a visual representation of workout nutrition. What to consume before, during, and after physical activity.]

a brief overview

Most individuals may fulfill their workout nutrition requirements by having a healthy, well-considered meal 1-2 hours before exercise and another healthy, well-considered meal 1-2 hours after exercise.

To put it another way:

You probably don’t require specific workout nutrition plans if you’re a healthy individual who exercises frequently.

Athletes have unique requirements.

Naturally, if you’re…

  • A long-distance runner. You prepare to compete at a high level. Each week, you put in a lot of high-intensity miles. Carbohydrate and calorie requirements are likely to be greater for you. During your workout, you may consume a protein Plus carbohydrate (P+C) drink.
  • As a bodybuilder, I’m working out. You lift weights with the goal of gaining significant muscular mass. You want to put on some pounds. Your protein and calorie requirements are almost certainly greater. During your workout, you may also consume a protein Plus carbohydrate (P+C) drink.
  • Preparing to compete in a fitness competition. You’ve put in a lot of workout time. You’re aiming for a body fat percentage of less than 10%. Carbohydrate consumption should be reduced for you. During your workout, you’d benefit from the performance-enhancing, muscle-preserving essential amino acids (EAA).

Here’s a helpful table with our suggestions broken down by goal and body type (though we’d advocate focusing on goal above body type).

Workout nutrition recommendations based on your objective and body type

Body typea broad objectivePre-workoutDuring the exercisePost-workout
EctomorphStrengthening your muscles or boosting your endurance1-2 hours before to the event, eat regularlyDuring the day, consume water, a P+C drink, or an EAA drink.After 1-2 hours, eat normally.
MesomorphPhysique enhancement or sport assistance on an as-needed basis1-2 hours before to the event, eat regularlyDuring the day, consume water, a P+C drink, or an EAA drink.After 1-2 hours, eat normally.
EndomorphSupport for fat loss or strength sports1-2 hours before to the event, eat regularlyDuring this time, drink either water or EAA.After 1-2 hours, eat normally.

Most everyone else: Focus on food quality & quantity

Remember:

  • if you’re working out to improve your overall health and fitness;
  • if your objectives aren’t as lofty; and/or
  • You don’t have any special physiological requirements…

…then you most likely don’t need any special exercise nutrition methods.

Focus on:

  • consuming more minimally processed proteins, vegetables, high-quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats
  • ensuring that your servings are the appropriate size and quantity for you; and
  • Slowly eat till you’re satisfied.

Check out for additional information on these… Three methods to get your eating back on track if your diet has gone off the rails.

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Nutrient timing isn’t required for everyone.

Even women’s publications such as Cosmopolitan now suggest sports drinks to aid hydration and recuperation. They claim that nutrient timing is crucial for all exercisers.

We hate to contradict the renowned sports nutritionists who staff lifestyle publications, but the majority of individuals don’t need to worry about nutritional timing.

Through our coaching programs, we’ve helped over 100,000 people. This experience, coupled with the most recent scientific data, indicates that nutritional timing is not a top concern for most individuals wanting to look and feel their best.

Check out the entire review at… Is nutritional timing a thing of the past? And does it really matter when you eat?

Indeed, a lot of people are worried about:

  • when they should consume their carbohydrates;
  • when they should consume their fats; and
  • what supplements should they take before and after their exercises…

…may be both distracting and self-destructive.

(For others, nutritional timing provides a foundation for making smart meal choices and keeping overall consumption under control.) Of course, if that’s the case, keep the nutritional timing going!)

It’s important to consider the context.

Remember, we’re not recommending or discouraging nutritional timing.

It can, and often does, work.

However, nutritional timing is just one of several tools available. It, like any other instrument, must be used with care, in the proper manner, and in the appropriate circumstances.

What applies to a pre-diabetic office worker who has never exercised does not apply to a dedicated endurance runner or a long-time bodybuilder. Athletes, in fact, stand to gain the most from particular dietary tactics surrounding their exercises, as previously stated.

Finally, whether you’re an athlete, a serious exerciser, or a trainer/coach who deals with these groups and are reading this, know that these methods have the potential to make a difference.

Nutrient timing isn’t a black art.

Your body or performance will not be transformed overnight by nutrient timing. This is particularly true if you aren’t yet following the basic nutrition practices on a regular basis.

If you’re a casual exerciser who just wants to look and feel better, nutritional timing may be beneficial, but it could also be a lot of effort for little gain.

In-depth look at workout nutrition

Let’s get started for those of you who want to learn more.

We’ll start with the pre-exercise, during-exercise, and post-exercise phases to see what’s going on.

Then we’ll tell you how to make the most of them by eating the right foods.

Nutritional requirements prior to activity

What you eat before you workout and when you consume it may have a significant impact on your performance and recuperation.

You’ll want to consume anything that will assist you three hours before your workout:

  • maintain energy
  • enhance performance;
  • hydrate;
  • maintain muscular mass; and
  • recuperation as quickly as possible

Here are a few methods to be sure you’re fulfilling your obligations.

Before you workout, eat some protein.

In the hours leading up to your workout, eat some protein:

  • Can aid in the maintenance or even growth of muscular mass. Anyone who wishes to enhance their health, body composition, or performance should do so.
  • Can help to decrease muscle damage indicators (myoglobin, creatine kinase, and myofibrillar protein degradation). Or, at the very least, keep them from becoming worse. (Eating carbohydrates or a placebo before exercise does not seem to have the same effect.) The less damage you do to your muscles, the quicker you will heal and adapt to your activity over time.
  • Amino acids are flooded into your circulation precisely when your body needs them the most. This increases your muscle-building potential. So you’re not just avoiding injury, but you’re also gaining muscle mass.

Before you hurry out to make a protein shake, consider the following: While eating protein before a workout is a good idea, the speed with which it is digested seems to be unimportant. Any protein source, consumed within a few hours after the exercise, would suffice.

Carbs before a workout

Carbohydrates before exercise:

  • Fuels your workout and aids with recuperation. It’s a common misunderstanding that you only need carbohydrates if you’re doing a lengthy session of endurance exercise (greater than two hours). Carbs may really help you get more out of a one-hour high-intensity workout. Unless you’re going for a leisurely walk, ensuring that you have some carbohydrates in your system can help you perform better at high intensity.
  • Maintains muscle and liver glycogen stores. This signals to your brain that you’ve eaten enough and aids in muscle retention and development.
  • Insulin secretion is stimulated. This increases protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown when coupled with protein. Another reason why a mixed lunch is a good idea is that it allows you to try a variety of foods. There’s no need for sugary carb beverages.

Fats before working out

Fats before working out:

  • They don’t seem to enhance or detract from athletic performance. They also don’t seem to fuel performance, which is what carbohydrates are for.
  • Slowing digestion helps to manage blood glucose and insulin levels, keeping you on track.
  • Vitamins and minerals are essential components of everyone’s diet.

In practice, pre-exercise nutrition

With these considerations in mind, here are some suggestions for the pre-exercise time.

You may just have a regular lunch a few hours before exercising, depending on your own requirements. You may also have a smaller meal just before your workout. (If you’re aiming to gain weight, you may as well do both.)

Option 1: Allow 2-3 hours before to exercising.

Have a mixed lunch and a low-calorie beverage like water thus much ahead of your exercise.

Here’s what your lunch could look like if you’re a man:

V Type_Diet_Men

This is what your dinner could look like if you’re a woman.

V Type_Diet_Women

Note that your specific requirements will vary according on your size, objectives, genetics, and the length and intensity of your exercise.

An endurance athlete preparing for a 20-mile run, for example, will need more carbohydrates than someone planning for a 45-minute gym session.

This article goes into more detail on how you may customize these meals to meet your specific requirements.

Option 2: 0-60 minutes before to the start of the workout

Rather of eating a bigger meal, eat a smaller one. Some individuals prefer to have a smaller lunch closer to the workout than 2-3 hours before.

The only problem is that the closer your exercise gets, the less time you have to digest. That’s why, at this time, we usually suggest something liquid, such as a shake or a smoothie.

It’s possible that yours will look like this:

  • 1 rounded scoop of protein powder
  • 1 fistful of vegetables (spinach works great in smoothies)
  • 1-2 cup carbohydrate handfuls (berries or a banana work great)
  • 1 fatty thumb (like flax seeds or avocado)
  • water or unsweetened almond milk are both low-calorie beverages.

Here’s a tasty example:

  • 1 scoop protein powder (chocolate)
  • 1 spinach fist
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • unsweetened almond milk, 8 oz. chocolate

It certainly goes without saying, but when it comes to pre-workout nutrition, stick to meals that don’t upset your stomach. Because… well, you’re aware of what happens if you don’t.

Nutritional requirements during activity

What you eat or drink while exercising is only relevant in certain situations. However, if you plan to eat while exercising, your nutritional objectives will be similar to those for pre-workout nutrition. Above all, you’ll want to stay hydrated, so for the most part, water will suffice.

Nutritional objectives during exercise:

  • keep yourself moisturized;
  • give instant fuel;
  • enhance performance;
  • muscular preservation; and
  • enhance recovery

When you workout, you need protein.

When it comes to eating protein while exercising, there are a few things to keep in mind

  • It aids in the prevention of muscle breakdown. In the long run, this may contribute to better recuperation and adaptability to exercise. This is particularly true if you haven’t eaten in more than three hours. To regulate protein breakdown, you just need a modest quantity of protein – around 15 grams each hour. If you prefer to exercise on an empty stomach, taking 5-15 grams of EAAs throughout your workout may be beneficial. (15 g/hr while training, 5 g/hr during competition.)
  • Is actually only required for a few people: athletes that perform lengthy, hard training bouts, numerous daily training sessions, and/or more experienced persons attempting to achieve substantial body composition changes.

Carbohydrates and exercise

Carbohydrate consumption during exercise:

  • Provides a ready-to-use fuel source. This improves performance and allows for a quicker recovery. Our stress hormone cortisol is reduced, while helpful hormones are increased.
  • Is only helpful in specific situations: long-distance runners, individuals who want to develop a lot of muscle, and people who are very active and need every calorie they can get to enhance size, strength, and/or performance.

How much carbohydrate should you consume?

That is debatable. During activity, the greatest quantity of carbs that may be digested/absorbed is 60-80 grams per hour. And the best way to accomplish these rates is to utilize a combination of glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin (as they use different transport mechanisms).

You may get the same endurance advantages with just 30-45 grams of carbohydrate per hour if you add protein in the mix. Note that the protein also helps to prevent muscle breakdown, so it’s usually a good idea to include some.

Exercise-induced fats

It’s a good idea to consume a little fat before and after you workout. (And it’s delicious!)

However, you should avoid consuming fats when exercising. This is due to the fact that fats are more difficult to digest. You also don’t want to put your stomach through any more effort than it can take throughout training.

In-the-moment nutrition while exercise is a real thing.

Is it necessary to consume food throughout your workout?

That depends on how long it’s been since you’ve eaten and how much/what kind of exercise you intend to do.

A workout that lasts less than two hours is ideal.

Hydration should be the primary emphasis during exercise sessions lasting less than two hours. This is particularly true if you eat well before and after your workout. As a result, make sure you carry lots of water with you.

What about sports drinks, though? They aren’t very useful for events that are less than two hours long. Especially if you ate a nutritious pre-workout meal.

However, there are certain exceptions.

  1. If you’re working out in the heat and sweating profusely, sports drinks may be beneficial since they include electrolytes that aid in hydration and recuperation.
  2. In addition, if you’ll be competing or training again in less than eight hours, sports drinks may help you recover faster.
  3. If you’re aiming to build the most muscle, adding a protein and carbohydrate drink or some EAAs to your workout may give you a little edge.
  4. Finally, although it may not assist at the greatest levels of sport or competition, it definitely won’t harm to consume a sports drink during competition to guarantee maximum hydration and energy supply.

More than two hours of exercise

Sports drinks may be very beneficial for training sessions lasting longer than two hours. You’ll want to eat the following per hour:

  • protein (15 g)
  • 30-45 grams of carbohydrates

This may take the shape of liquids, gels, or even solid foods.

Many endurance athletes prefer to drink water and eat fruit and other foods to supply their energy even on really long runs. Either approach is fine, as long as you ensure you’re getting enough protein, carbohydrates and electrolytes, especially sodium.

If you’re fighting for more than two hours, you’ll probably want to cut down on the protein and increase the carbohydrates, so every hour, eat:

  • Protein (5 g)
  • 45-60 grams of carbohydrates

During training, more protein is consumed to promote recuperation, while less protein is consumed during competition to promote performance.

Do not depend on water alone if you are exercising hard for more than two hours, particularly in the heat. Your performance and recuperation will suffer as a result of this. It may also cause hyponatremia, a disease in which your blood salt levels are too low. Hyponatremia produces irregular muscle and cardiac contractions, which may lead to death.

When you’re sweating a lot under these circumstances, sports drinks are the way to go.

Nutritional requirements after exercise

Let’s take a look at post-workout nutrition now.

Nutrition after an exercise may benefit you:

  • recover;
  • rehydrate;
  • refuel;
  • muscular mass; and
  • enhancing future performance

After a workout, eat some protein.

After exercise, consuming protein inhibits protein breakdown and promotes synthesis, resulting in increased or maintained muscle tissue. As a result, it’s an excellent approach for improving recuperation, adaptability, and performance.

Most fitness gurus previously suggested fast-acting proteins such as whey or casein hydrolysate. This is because previous study has shown that the faster amino acids reach your muscles, the better the outcome.

New study suggests, however, that hydrolyzed, fast-digesting proteins may enter our systems too quickly. They may not optimize protein synthesis or optimally prevent protein degradation since they’re in and out of the circulation so rapidly.

Furthermore, the splanchnic bed preferentially absorbs hydrolyzed casein (i.e. our internal organs). As a result, it isn’t as effective as it might be for increasing protein synthesis in other areas.

And since the protein you ate before exercising is still spiking in your circulation, the speed with which new protein arrives is irrelevant.

In other words, there’s no proof that protein powders, particularly the fast-digesting kind, are any healthier for us after a workout than whole food protein.

They aren’t likely to be any worse. As a result, during your post-workout meal, you may choose whatever kind of protein you desire.

Do you want something quick and easy? Make a delicious Super Shake to drink after your exercise.

Want to eat real food? Then prepare a delicious high-protein dinner.

As long as you consume enough, any high-quality complete protein should suffice. This equates to approximately 40-60 grams (about 2 palms) for males and 20-30 grams for women (1 palm).

Carbs after a workout

Contrary to common perception, eating refined carbs and sugars after an exercise isn’t required to “spike” insulin and supposedly replenish muscle and liver glycogen as quickly as possible.

In reality, a combination of minimally processed whole food carbs and fruit (to help replenish or maintain liver glycogen) is a superior option because:

  • It’s more tolerable;
  • It replenishes glycogen in a 24-hour period in the same way; and
  • It may lead to improved performance the following day.

Endurance athletes who do two glycogen-depleting workouts within eight hours of one another may be an exception to this rule, since glycogen replenishment speed is important in such circumstances. Whole foods with some fruit, on the other hand, are likely to be a superior option for most healthy exercisers.

When insulin levels are between 15 and 30 mU/L, muscle protein breakdown is prevented and muscle protein synthesis is optimal. Fasting levels of 5-10 mU/L are only approximately three times higher.

If you eat a mixed meal or drink Super Shake a few hours before and after exercising, you may easily achieve these levels. Plus, your levels should remain at this level for approximately four hours after eating mixed meals.

Fats after a workout

According to conventional wisdom, lipids should be avoided after exercise since they delay digestion and nutritional absorption.

While this is true, it is also irrelevant in the majority of instances. We’ve previously shown that protein and carbohydrate digestion speed isn’t as essential as we originally believed. Fats are the same way.

In instance, one research examined the effects of drinking skim milk vs full milk after exercise. The participants were given either 14 ounces of skim milk or 8 ounces of full milk to drink (that equalized the calories, for those of you who love calorie math).

The people who drank skim milk received the same amount of calories as those who drank whole milk, but with six more grams of protein. You’d think they’d have the upper hand.

The whole milk consumers, on the other hand, had a greater net protein balance! And the researchers couldn’t think of anything else to blame it on except the fat content of whole milk.

According to another study, consuming as much as 55 grams of fat post-workout and another 55 grams in the two following meals had no effect on glycogen replenishment when compared to lower fat meals with the same amount of carbs.

Clearly, the advantages of protein and carbohydrate intake surrounding exercise are unaffected by fat. In fact, it may even have certain advantages of its own!

In-practice post-exercise nutrition

While you don’t have to run in the door and to the fridge as soon as you get home from the gym, you shouldn’t wait too long before eating. Failure to eat within a two-hour window after exercise may cause recovery to be delayed.

However, this is depending on the situation; what you ate before your exercise has an impact.

If you had a modest pre-training meal or ate it many hours before training, it’s definitely more essential for you to get your post-workout food into your system as soon as possible. Within an hour, most likely.

If you worked out while fasting (for example, first thing in the morning before breakfast), it’s also a good idea to eat as soon as possible afterward.

However, if you ate a normal-sized mixed meal a few hours before exercising (or a small shake closer to training), you’ll have one to two hours after training to eat your post-workout meal and still get the advantages of exercise nutrition.

So go ahead and spend an hour in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal.

0-2 hours after the workout

The same way you prepare for a workout, you should recuperate from it by eating a varied lunch of actual food.

Here’s how guys could construct it:

  • 2 protein-rich palms;
  • 2 vegetables fists;
  • 2 handfuls of carbohydrates in a cup;
  • 2 fat thumbs up;
  • Water is a low-calorie beverage.

Here’s how ladies may go about doing it:

  • 1 protein-rich palm;
  • 1 fistful of greens;
  • 1 cup of carbohydrates;
  • 1 tbsp. of fats
  • Water is a low-calorie beverage.

It’s possible that you won’t feel hungry after exercising. And that’s OK. If you don’t feel like eating, liquid nourishment is an option.

Use the same hand-sized portion recommendations as before to make a Super Shake.

GN_Shakes

Conclusion

Finally, no one-size-fits-all pre- and post-training nutrition plan exists.

What to eat depends on the situation.

Protein, carbohydrate, fat, and hydration needs vary significantly between a 155-pound endurance athlete preparing for a marathon and a 225-pound bodybuilder recuperating after a hard resistance-training session.

Different requirements in the post-exercise recovery phase will be dictated by the seasons of your training year. When it comes to dieting in preparation for a competition, that same bodybuilder will need to take a different strategy.

The ideal pre- and post-training meals for most of us, especially those without athletic contests on the horizon, will include a mix of high-quality protein, high-quality carbs, healthy fats, and some fruits and vegetables.

Protein, carbs, lipids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients are all included in these complete meals, which help to build muscle, give energy, reduce inflammation, and speed up recovery.

You can consume solid meals or drink smoothies, of course. And the quantity of each macronutrient depends on your specific requirements as well as your particular tastes and tolerances.

In terms of time, you’ll need one to two hours on each sides of your workout to get the most out of it.

And, according to the most current research, the overall quantity of protein and carbohydrate eaten throughout the day is much more essential than any particular nutrition timing approach for lean mass growth, fat reduction, and performance gains.

So, have fun with your exercise. As well as your food.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

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The impact of a carbohydrate and protein supplement on resistance exercise performance, hormonal response, and muscle injury. Baty JJ, et al. 2007 May;21(2):321-9. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):321-9.

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Carbohydrate-electrolyte feedings and 1h time trial cycling performance, Desbrow B, et al. 2004 Oct;14(5):541-9 in Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.

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PL Greenhaff, PL Greenhaff, PL Greenhaff, PL Greenhaff, PL Greenhaff In human muscle, there is a disconnect between the effects of amino acids and insulin on signaling, ubiquitin ligases, and protein turnover. 2008 Sep;295(3):E595-604. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Sep;295(3):E595-604.

J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Feb;17(1):187-96. Haff GG, et al. Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training.

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Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate consumption affects the anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise, Tipton KD, et al. 2001 Aug;281(2):E197-206 in Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab.

LB Verdijk, et al. Protein supplementation before and after exercise had little effect on skeletal muscle growth in elderly men after resistance training. 89(2):608-616 in J Clin Nutr.

TP Wycherly, et al. In type 2 diabetes patients on a hypocaloric, high protein diet, timing of protein ingestion relative to resistance training has no effect on body composition, energy expenditure, glycemic management, or cardiometabolic risk factors. 2010;12(12):1097-1105. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010;12(12):1097-1105.

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

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Workout nutrition explained. What to eat before, during, and after exercise. | The average person tends to get a workout in after a long day’s work. The gym, a run or a walk, a workout video while watching TV- no matter what, it’s a good exercise to do. But there comes a point when you start to get tired of working out and start to get bored of working out. You decide to stop and take a break. But then, you realize that you’re not doing anything about your diet. What you’re eating is just as boring as your workout. So what you’re going to do? Well, you’re going to get out of the routine and get a workout nutrition plan to get a healthy diet. Read more about what to eat after workout at night and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which nutrients should be eaten before during and after exercise?

The best way to answer this question is to consult your doctor.

What is better eating before exercise or eating after exercise?

It is best to eat before exercise.

What is good to eat before a workout to see results?

A lot of people like to eat a banana before they work out. This is because its high in potassium and can help your muscles contract faster and more efficiently.

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