Participants often ask me what they should be eating before and after their workouts, as well as how long to wait before and after. How big a meal you have before your workout, and how much time you need in between digesting and your workout depends both on the workout itself and the individual. It requires a little bit of trial and error for some, as some need more food to prevent "hitting a wall" and some need less to avoid some discomfort from digestion. However, a good rule of thumb to follow is about 200 calories within an hour of starting your workout. Try this, and see how it feels. If you lose energy, you may either need a bigger snack or to have it sooner before you start.
Afterward, many people do not have an appetite for the first 20 minutes or so. But when that appetite kicks in, it can be fierce. So I usually recommend refueling within 20-30 minutes with a smaller meal, or within 30-60 if it's a larger one.
Your meal before your workout should include a complex carbohydrate, a little bit of protein (not too much) and some healthy fat. The carbohydrate will provide instant energy, and the healthy fat will help to sustain in.
After your workout, you should include a little bit of a complex carbohydrate, a regular amount of a complete protein and a little bit of healthy fat. The post-workout meal depends on the nature of the workout. If your workout was one that consists predominantly of a cardiovascular quality, you will want your post-workout meal to bit a bit heavier in the complex carb department than if it were a heavy strength session.
I know that this won't sound cut and dry enough for some, but it is essential to be a little bit flexible and I will provide my favourite options for both the pre and post categories in order to be more specific.
*Remember which foods belong in which categories. Complex carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), potatoes, oats and other grains. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, avocados and oils - try to stick to qualities that grow from the ground. Complete proteins are meat or seafood, eggs, greek yogurt and plant options include spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds and organic tofu or tempeh, protein shake supplement.
These are examples (I'm trying to keep this simple).
Therefore, some great pre-workout meals are:
A banana or half a banana with 1 tbsp of nut butter Half a serving of oatmeal or overnight chia oats A few rice crackers / whole food based crackers and 1-2 tbsp hummus A slice of sprouted or gluten free toast with avocado 3 tbsp greek yogurt (yogurt is part carb part protein), 1/2 peach, 1 tbsp hemp seeds An almond milk latte, 1/2 organic apple and 2 tsp nut butter Small smoothie made with 1 serving of fruit, greens, 1/2 cup almond milk and 1 T hemp seeds 2 dates stuffed with walnuts
Some great post-workout meals are:
A vegetable omelette cooked in coconut oil, 2 eggs Protein shake mixed with 1 serving of fruit and 1 T hemp seeds Small bowl of any dinner that includes vegetables and protein, such a spaghetti squash with vegetables and shrimp Chicken and salad Green smoothie made with 1 serving of fruit, greens, 1 tsp spirulina, 1 T hemp seeds, hard boiled egg Sprouted or gluten free toast with 2 slices of turkey bacon and tomato A protein bar with clean ingredients such as Genuine Health Vegan Proteins +.
Again, these are just examples to get the ball rolling. If you know your categories, you can compose these meal ideas easily! Ultimately, choose healthy ingredients, include each of the macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats), but try to keep your pre-workout meal a bit heavier on the carb side for energy and keep your post-workout meal a bit heavier on the protein side for recovery. This is the simplest way to put it, that applies to most people.
Fuelling properly before and after can make all the difference in keeping your energy high, blood sugar levels stable, preventing post-workout hanger and also reaping the benefits of the work you're doing to build lean muscle tissue. If you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to ask me!