Whether your workout routine involves hitting the gym after work, or starting the day off with a spin class, it’s crucial to remember that what determines the outcome of your workout is 80% what you eat, and only 20% the workout itself. Nutrition is key! The foods you put into your body, and the timing you eat have a profound impact on your overall workout experience.
So how far in advance do you fuel up? Does something like eating a pre workout bar versus a post workout bar really make that much of a difference? Does the type of workout routine impact whether or not to eat a protein before or after a workout ? Let’s dive into some of these questions and find the solution best for you!
Nutrient timing is often a detail people disregard when they are newer to working out. The concept of nutrient timing is all about eating at strategic times in order to achieve certain outcomes. When you exercise, the protein in your muscles begins to break down. To recover from this breakdown, simple pre workout protein practices can go a long way!
If you are considering eating a protein bar before a workout, make sure to first check out the nutritional label. Some of the key indicators to look out for are the fat content, the amount of protein, and how many carbohydrates are in the bar. Looking out for carbohydrates is key because they are a source of energy that ensure that blood sugar and glycogen levels are optimized. If you’re heading into a longer workout, pick a bar with a higher carb content. If you’re heading into a shorter workout, pick a bar with lower carb content. A balanced snack goes a long way to help you perform your best no matter the duration!
You also might be wondering, does eating before exercising depend on the type of workout you are going to do? For instance, what to eat 30 minutes before a workout that is high intensity could completely vary from what you may or may not eat 30 minutes before a yoga class. In order to understand how to fuel properly, be mindful of these general guidelines:
What to Eat Before a Workout
Endurance Training:Carbs and healthy fats. Whether you’re training for a half marathon or a triathlon, aim to get your snack in about an hour before your workout. Some great options are a banana with nut butter, avocado toast, or a protein bar with a combination of those carbs and healthy fats!
Yoga: HYDRATION, hydration, hydration! (especially if it’s hot yoga!) If you’re craving a snack, try something like water-rich fruit, pressed juice, or an easy 100 calorie pre workout protein. All of these water and carb rich foods are easy to digest AND will keep you energized and alert!
HIIT or Strength Training: Aim for a 200-300 calorie combination of proteins, carbs, and fats in foods like protein bars with around 200 calories, grilled chicken, avocado, or spinach. (Or substitute egg whites for chicken if it’s a morning workout) This combination of fuel is essential for muscle repair and recovery. Once our bodies use up the protein storage, they’ll move along the carbs and fat to restore the energy we’ve depleted from these types of workouts.
Fueling before a workout is also important in order to keep your blood sugars in a healthy range while working out. Adding in a pre workout protein will increase your overall stamina and metabolic efficiency. Metabolic Efficiency is “improving the body's ability to use its energy stores more efficiently through proper nutrition and exercise implementation”. No one likes feeling weak or hangry! So fuel up on a protein bar before a workout to change the value of your session.
30 Minutes Post Workout
Eating a post workout protein bar also has many benefits. Not only is it the perfect solution to quickly refuel until there is time to eat a meal, it is also essential for muscle restoration.
No matter the type of workout you like to do, when you exercise, your muscles start to work in overdrive which causes tiny microscopic tears. Don’t worry though; these tears are completely normal! In fact, it’s where we get the phrase “getting ripped”. Ultimately, strong muscles are built while the muscles repair from the microscopic tears. However, in order for our muscles to continue to build and develop properly, we must consider one essential factor. Protein.
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids in total. Out of those 20, our bodies can only produce 11. Therefore, we must turn to our diets to replenish those other 9 amino acids. Amino acids help repair muscle damage and growth that occurs while exercising. While the muscle cell organelles are disrupted from the microscopic tears, satellite cells from outside muscle fibers rush to those torn areas. From there, the cells replicate and mature into grown cells that fuse to muscle fibers where new muscle protein strands are built. Therefore, what to eat after a workout to build muscle DOES matter in order for the body to rebuild, repair, and regrow those muscles. Eating a protein bar after a workout with a complete source of protein is the best way to go about this process.
If you’re considering whether to eat a protein before or after workout for muscle gain, remember that while the body is healing damaged cells, the fuel you choose will assist in increasing the visible size of the muscles. This happens because the protein that comes from eating a protein bar after a workout allows the strength of our muscles to grow and any soreness from the exercise to be relieved.
Whether your workout routine plays out in the morning before work, midday during lunch break, or at night on the way home, it is only natural to wonder is it better to eat protein before or after a workout? Proper fuel and the timing of that fuel will impact your workout significantly. Being mindful of nutrient timing like protein intake is key to building sustainable habits that support your fitness goals. You got this!