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What to Eat Pre & Post Workout
Your pre-workout fuel should be composed of medium- to fast-digesting proteins and slower-digesting carbs.
PRE-WORKOUT MEALS TO BURN FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE:
- Egg Whites and Whole Grain Bread: Egg whites are quick-digesting, and whole grain bread is a quick and convenient medium-digesting carb.
- Low-Fat Milk and Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a good pre-workout meal, especially when you add protein. Milk contains whey, which is an ideal pre-workout protein, and the slow-digesting oats keep you feeling full and focused as you pump out those reps!
- Chicken and Yams: A bodybuilder classic, chicken and yams are the perfect pre-workout combo. You can also eat them post-workout to cut down on meal prep!
- Tuna and Brown Rice: Any light, low-fat fish will do, but nothing beats tuna for convenience, and the brown rice adds flavor and fuel for your lifts.
- Ground Turkey and Black Beans: Add a bit of seasoning to the ground turkey and a couple of corn tortillas, and you have a low-fat, high-energy, pre-workout snack you can eat on the go.
Since fat delays food leaving the stomach, known as ‘gastric emptying’ it can slow down your body’s uptake of nutrients and should be avoided pre- and post-workout. The only exception would be if you plan on working out intensely for longer than 90 minutes, in which case your body could use that fat calories as fuel.
EXAMPLES OF POST-WORKOUT MEALS
- Pork Loin and Baked Red Potatoes: ‘The other white meat’ gives you a blast of protein, and the starchy potatoes are a source of fast-digesting carbs.
- Chicken Breast and Pasta: Toss with tomato sauce or season with herbs to add more flavor to this simple meal. Adding a little olive oil isn’t a bad idea, either.
- Salmon, Carrots, and Green Beans: Salmon is a natural source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that fight exercise-related soreness. Veggies like carrots and green beans are low-calorie and high in vitamins for optimum gains.
- Lean Beef Patty, Whole-Wheat Bun, and Sliced Avocado: Lean beef is an iron-rich protein source, the whole-wheat bun is a healthy source of carbs, and the natural healthy fats of the avocado also add delicious flavor!
- Smoothie with Greek Yogurt and Fruit: A great breakfast if you train early in the morning, the whey and casein combo of the yogurt helps support protein synthesis, and the sugar in the fruit helps raise insulin.
SIMPLE VS. COMPLEX CARBS POST-WORKOUT
After your training session, you can either create another insulin spike with fast-digesting, simple carbohydrates, or use complex, slow-burning carbs to stabilize blood sugar and prevent unwanted fat gain.
Insulin is anti-catabolic when raised right after exercise, and anabolic when raised at rest. Put simply, an insulin spike stops protein breakdown right after working out, and you can encourage anabolism by creating another spike with your post-workout meal.
Of course, you have to work out for insulin to help you build muscle. You can’t just slam a shake and sit on the couch expecting massive gains.
Your other option would be to include complex carbs like oatmeal, rather than simple carbs like candy. Insulin is as much a fat-storing hormone as it is an anabolic hormone, so if you want to avoid gaining extra body fat while you build mass, it makes sense to keep your blood-sugar levels stable after you train and not spike them a second time.
Many people claim they experience ‘leaner gains’ when they switch to slow-burning complex carbohydrates.
The arguments for fast-burning, simple carbs versus slow-burning, complex carbs both have merit, so ultimately it depends on your goals, and what you feel your body best responds to.