Whether it’s better to eat pre or post-workout isn’t a one size fits all answer – one determined by your training and health/aesthetic goals.
So if you’re training to lose fat, gain muscle, or a combo of the 2, we break down when the best time is for YOU to smash a meal – and which MACROS you should be focusing on to maximise your results.
Training For Weight Loss
Your body relies on body fat and carbohydrates as its main sources of fuel.
The idea of not eating before a morning workout stems from the fact that your glycogen/stored carbohydrate levels are often depleted after a night of not eating – allowing your body to potentially burn more fat. Reduced glycogen stores may help your body burn more fat, but if they are completely depleted, this could cause your body to use up hard-earned muscle for energy.
This is a worst case scenario though, most likely you’ll have had a meal before sleeping – meaning your glycogen stores will be low, but still adequate, allowing your body to safely burn fat.
If you’re not training first thing in the morning, complex carbohydrates like brown rice, beans, and starchy veg provide excellent exercise fuel – as well as nutrients and filling fibre. Protein sources like chicken, fish, and lean beef are also advisable as protein supports muscle growth and recovery. Best to avoid fat pre-workout though because it can delay digestion.
MACROS tip: downing a cup of coffee or green tea 15-30 minutes before exercising can improve your workout, as caffeine has been shown to enhance athletic performance. Avoid this during an evening workout though unless you want to be up all night.
Training For Muscle Gain
Doing long or intense workouts with the aim of gaining muscle mass? It’s important to eat before AND after a workout. The right nutrition will help support muscle mass growth, reduce your recovery time, and give you more energy to power through your workout.
If you’re eating 2-4 hours before a workout, consume a mix of all MACROS – carbs, protein, and fat. Select a complex carb source (legumes, whole grains, quinoa, or millet), team it with lean protein (chicken, salmon, or tofu), and add some fat (nuts, nut butter, seeds, or avo). Or whip up our Peanut Butter Power smoothie recipe and you’ll be getting a good balance of all your MACROS in.
If you’re eating 1-2 hours before working out, go for carbs and protein with minimal fat. Try combos like fruit (carbs) and cottage cheese (protein with some fat), oats (carbs) and greek yogurt (protein), or whole grains, tuna, and a handful of nuts or seeds. Our Protein Pancake recipe with banana mixed in is another good one.
Training For Weight Loss & Muscle Gain
Take advantage of the window of recovery after an intense workout – at its peak for 1 hour after you train. This is the time to be eating easy to digest carbs and protein. When eaten together, carbs and protein encourage glycogen synthesis – needed to help replenish your muscles and aid muscle strength – to a greater extent than if you were only to eat one or the other. Smashing low GI carbs post-workout (helps stave off fat storage as they’re slow to break down in the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar spikes which lead to fat storage.
Aim for a complete protein source (chicken, lean beef, tuna, salmon) paired with a low GI carb source (oats, basmati rice, beans, boiled sweet potato, an apple) in order to refuel, help your muscles recover, and support lean tissue gain.
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