Proper nutrition plays a fundamental role in the lives of athletes. It seriously affects your ability during training, recovery, and results. What and how much you eat is essential, but also when and how you do it.
To clarify, imagine that your body is a machine that needs to be supported by fuel and oil. If you give it the wrong thing, fill it up with gasoline instead of oil and oil instead of gasoline; too little, too much, don’t replenish the stock in time – it may start to work inefficiently or even break down.
Similarly, your body needs quality, timely, and lifestyle-appropriate nutrition to function at its highest level. This article will examine what nutrition is essential for athletes before and after training and why.
Can I eat before a workout?
The answer to this question depends on what type of physical activity you practice. The general recommendation is that you should not eat immediately before training because the feeling of a full stomach will interfere with effective and enjoyable activities.
Whether there is before training and how long before it depends on what exactly and why you are doing it.
If you train in the morning, then in the case of a relatively small load – morning exercises, yoga, stretching-stretching – you can do it on an empty stomach, or you can do it with a light breakfast. Regarding evening light workouts, there is also no need to force food into yourself before them: follow your feelings.
If your workout includes strength training or intense cardio, eating 1.5 to 2 hours before exercise is best.
Eating food that will give the body enough energy and nutrients to cope with physical exertion is essential. Each macronutrient—proteins, fats, and carbohydrates—plays a role in this process.
Proteins are the primary material for muscle repair and growth. Still, an excess of them can harm the body, especially the kidneys, because excess proteins, not fully absorbed, form urea and other breakdown products that burden the kidneys.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, so they can help increase endurance during exercise. However, fast-absorbing carbohydrates, such as sugar, can cause blood sugar levels to rise too quickly and fall. As a result, weakness, dizziness, and other unpleasant consequences of jumps in glucose “jump” will occur.
Fats are an essential source of long-term energy that helps the body during long workouts. They break down more slowly than carbohydrates and energize you throughout your workout. They also influence the synthesis of hormones that regulate metabolism, which is essential for growth and tissue repair after exercise. It is enough to include 10-20 grams of easily digestible fats in your meal in olive oil, avocados, nuts, or seeds.
Does performance decrease during fasted training?
During exercise, the body actively needs energy, which it can extract from glucose or glycogen.
Glucose is the primary source of energy for body cells, including muscles. It enters the bloodstream from food containing carbohydrates.
Glycogen is a complex carbohydrate that is the storage form of glucose in skeletal muscle and the liver. When the body needs energy, glycogen is broken down into glucose and supplied to the blood.
A decrease in the level of both affects the form of a feeling of weakness, fatigue, and a reduction in endurance. The muscles will not receive enough energy to complete the cellucor c4 pre workout, so performance is inevitably reduced.
Also, when training on an empty stomach, the level of hormones that contribute to the breakdown of fat reserves in the body can decrease. They are called fat-mobilizing hormones, or lipolytic, and help break down fat and increase muscle mass.
With intense strength training and cardio, if you exercise on an empty stomach, you may experience dizziness, nausea, or other signals that something is going wrong. In addition, in this case, the muscle recovery process is slower because the body has nowhere to take the necessary substances.
If it is not possible to organize a full meal 1.5 – 2 hours before training, a light snack, for example, in the form of fruits and yogurt, 30 minutes before the start of physical activity, will correct the situation.
Do I need to eat after a workout?
In physical activity, the body actively spends energy and nutrients, so after a workout, restoring strength and providing muscles with materials for growth is very important. All this can only be done with food.
During training, muscle microtrauma occurs, so after exercise, it is essential to eat food containing proteins. Proteins will help restore and build muscle tissue, and carbohydrates will regain energy and replenish muscle glycogen.
In addition, on training days, it is essential to drink enough fluids to compensate for the loss of water and electrolytes.
The ideal option is to consume proteins and carbohydrates within 30-60 minutes after training. Food after a workout should be easily digestible, such as eggs, fish, protein shakes, oatmeal with fruits, cottage cheese, bananas, and other foods rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Eat enough of them to meet your body’s nutritional needs.
When to eat after a workout
Many trainers and nutritionists refer to the theory of the protein-carbohydrate or anabolic “window” – the period after training, when the body processes the nutrients received at that moment as efficiently as possible, so that at this time after training you can and should eat whatever you want.
Based on this theory, the best eating time is 20-30 minutes after exercising. However, numerous experiments could neither confirm nor disprove the benefits of this practice.
Focus on your feelings. There is immediately after training, as well as after 20 minutes, and after an hour – you can. Moreover, if, for one reason or another, you did not manage to eat before the start of the workout, it is better not to postpone eating for a long time after it is completed.
The only thing worth adding: if you fundamentally do not eat for two or more hours after a workout, this will harm the body rather than help.
How to build nutrition for training and life
Regarding nutrition, many people rely on beliefs that are often unsupported and even unhealthy myths. For example, many believe that to lose weight, one should not eat entire food groups, that one should not drink while exercising, or that there is a “perfect” diet or nutrition system that is suitable for all people.
The human body is a complex system designed to ensure survival and may not behave as we expect. For example, the percentage of body fat can increase despite the “proper” diet and training:
Lack of adequate sleep can lead to increased hormone cortisol levels, contributing to increased body fat percentage.
If you sit at work for many hours a day and don’t move enough, your metabolism can slow down, resulting in fewer calories you burn throughout the day.
Too low a calorie intake can also slow metabolism and lead to body fat retention. The body will adapt to the new conditions and begin to reduce its activity – the person will tire faster and train inefficiently.
Insufficient water can also slow down metabolism, disrupt the excretory system, increase the volume of fat cells, and provoke overeating due to the subjective perception of thirst as hunger.
By the way, water is an electrolyte, which in dissolved form contains a lot of salts and trace elements that are vital during training. Drink according to the sensations while avoiding feelings of overcrowding.
Let’s get back to the myths. In some fitness hangouts, you can hear about “fat-burning” foods you must eat before or after a workout to lose weight. These include, for example, ginger, pineapple, green tea, coffee, cinnamon, and red pepper.
This myth has no basis: no matter what valuable properties this or that product has, it cannot take energy from the body, and even more so, to start the processes of reverse metabolism.
Another example: many athletes carefully control their carbohydrate intake, but this is only effective when the percentage of subcutaneous fat is already low enough. A small calorie deficit is enough without tight control if it is high. At the same time, attention to the consumed products’ quality and nutritional value is essential so that the body receives all the necessary nutrients, despite the calorie deficit.
What general principles should be based on the diet?
Our bodies may require different nutrients at different times depending on physical activity, our health, metabolism, and other factors, so a mindfulness approach is more effective and safer than one based on time guidelines. It May or may not be eaten.
Look at your body’s reaction, get to know it, learn to notice its signals, and understand what they mean.
These signals are not always easy to interpret correctly, so the best way to build a healthy approach to nutrition that is right for you is to seek the help of qualified specialists in food in general and sports in particular.
They will help you figure out how to eat right with your input, how to choose food based on the needs and characteristics of your body, and not directive rules or distorted body signals due to poor nutrition in the past.
It is essential to choose specialists based on sound research in several scientific areas, including eating behavior. They are not guided by fashion trends and unsupported beliefs, even reinforced by years of practice athletes.
The main points regarding food before and after training, briefly:
Ensure your body gets enough macro and micro nutrients for healthy and effective workouts.
If the physical activity is small, you can exercise on an empty stomach or arrange a light meal half an hour before training. You can do this only if it is not an intense activity. In other cases, before exercise, there should be a complete meal. The optimal interval between a dense meal and training is 2 hours. If this is not possible, a light meal for half an hour is required.
After training, you can eat immediately. You should not postpone eating for 2 hours or more; eating or at least having a snack after 30-60 minutes is better.
There should not be a choice of “Is it better to eat before or after a workout?”. The answer is straightforward: you need to eat before and after.
Drink as much water as you need according to your needs. Don’t get dehydrated.
The main thing for which it is worth doing physical exercises is health, pleasure, and comfortable well-being; therefore, the process of building a working system of training and nutrition is purely individual and unhurried. The body generally does not like to be rushed; it is evolutionarily adapted to change slowly and adaptively to be safe at every stage.
If you have any issues with food or health or want to tailor your workouts and nutrition more effectively to achieve specific results, consult pre-and post-workout nutrition with knowledgeable professionals and carefully weigh the risks.