Nutrition around your training
Updated: Jul 28, 2022
One doesn’t get fit just by exercising daily. Along with exercise, it is also important to time your meal around it. For maximum benefits from exercise, proper nutrition should be provided. This will not only help in optimizing your performance but also in your recovery. Proper thought has to be given to planning your nutrition requirements before, during, and after your workout. Given below are a few guidelines and suggestions that would help you do that.
Pre-workout meal or snack
Food or drinks taken before 1-4 hours of workout come in this category. This meal for athletes is mainly for comfort, confidence, and to fulfill the goals of fueling and hydration required for physical activity. You have to choose a meal or snack according to the timing of your training session. For example, it is not advised to have a pre-workout meal if you work out early in the morning.
So, what should the meal or snack consist of? Pre-workout meals should be rich in carbohydrates, should have moderate amounts of protein, low fat, low fiber, and should include fluids.
Carbohydrates: The carbohydrate recommendation is 1-4g/kg body weight (BW). So, if you are consuming a meal 2-4 hours before a workout or an event, then the recommended carbs range is 3-4g/kg BW and if it’s a small snack just before an hour, then carbs should be around 1-2g/kg BW.
Hydration: 5-7ml of fluid/kg BW is recommended before 4 hours of the workout. But care should be taken to avoid hyperhydration and gut training should be done to avoid gastrointestinal disturbances during workout/training sessions. Sports drinks can be ingested by athletes as they contain carbohydrates and sodium which are more palatable and help in the absorption and retention of the nutrients.
Here are some meal or snack ideas before your training.
Meal ideas (2-4 hours before)
1) Cereals with fruits and low-fat yogurt.
2) Oats with apple
3) Chicken pasta/rice
4) Turkey sandwich/wrap/roll with avocado and tomatoes
With juice or sports drink
Snack ideas (30-60mins before)
1) Granola bar
2) Peanut chikki
3) Dry fruits (dates, raisins, almonds, walnuts)
4) Bread with Peanut butter
Any food or fluid should be tried with the athlete in his/her preparatory period to understand what works the best. During training, mostly liquids are suggested. Before giving a certain kind of drink, the athlete’s gut should be trained so that the performance is not hindered due to the consumption of a drink during training. Fluids or snacks during the event help maintain the blood glucose level and provide the required energy for the game. They also maintain the electrolyte balance in the body.
It is advised to take small sips of water every 15-20 mins in the first hour and drink small sips of juices (lemon juice/ orange juice/ glucose water/ sports drink) every 15-20mins after the first hour.
Post-workout meal or snack
The post-workout meal should assist in replenishing the nutrients which were used during the exercise, rebuilding the muscle which was broken down during exercise, and rehydrating the body with fluid and electrolytes lost during exercise. Within 30-45 mins after your exercise is a window where you can fill the used stores of your body. Hence, post-workout meals should be rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and fluid.
Carbohydrates: 1-1.2g/kg BW of carbohydrates is recommended within one hour after your exercise. If there is another workout session within 8 hours, then it is advised to provide 1.2g/kg BW of carbohydrates within 45 mins after the first workout.
Protein: A high-quality protein-rich food that provides 20-25g or 0.25-0.4g/kg BW of protein soon after the exercise. A tip to meet your protein requirement of the day is by including protein-rich food in every meal (every 3-5 hours). Also including a protein-rich snack or meal before bed will help in protein synthesis overnight, especially for athletes, in whom wear and tear of muscles are more.
Hydration: By consuming 125% of the fluid loss (difference between pre-exercise and post-exercise weight) during your exercise. Start drinking the fluid soon after your workout and spread it evenly until 2-4 hours to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort. To replenish the electrolytes, add salt to your drink or eat salt-rich foods.
Here are some meal or snack ideas after your training.
1) Low-fat yogurt with fruit and honey
2) Smoothies with protein powder
3) Egg or chicken sandwich/rolls/wraps
4) High-protein sports bar
5) Peanut butter-banana smoothie
6) Hummus and veggie sticks
It is very important to know the time, type, and intensity of the exercise you are doing to plan your pre-or post-workout meal or snack. Supplements like sports drinks, protein powders, etc., should be chosen after careful consideration by checking the quality of the brand, nutritive value, and requirements of the body. If taken in excess (to reach the goals sooner), these can harm your body rather than improve your performance. Along with your exercise, your body composition like muscle mass, fat mass, etc. also matters. Hence, it is advised to get personalized nutrition help from your nutritionist to give adequate nutrition to your body during your training.
Reference: Industry Presented Blog: What to Eat Before and After a Workout (acsm.org)
International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing (nih.gov)
Clinical Sports Nutrition (5th edition) by Louise Burke and Vicki Deakin