Pre & Post Workout Fueling

 
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Written by: Heather Gerrish, RD

Pre-workout:

Fueling your body for an event, workout or for some extra energy in the afternoon can all be influenced by nutrition. By focusing on pre and post workout fueling practices, you can help your body prepare and repair as you progress in your TLAG training. Specifically, focusing on pre workout fueling with a small dose of carbohydrates can help your body utilize the energy it needs to perform and reach your fitness goals while not leaving you on a low energy spiral (think back to a time where you felt like you had 0% in the tank and the workout was IMPOSSIBLE - your body likely needed an extra boost!).

Examples of a small pre-workout snack could include a small piece of fruit or ½ cup serving of applesauce, a piece of toast or a half granola bar. Nothing too big to require additional time digesting, but just enough to give your body the quick energy it needs to perform at 100%. Carbohydrates are the easiest and most readily available source of energy the body can access at any given time, and by providing a small dose of carbohydrates before a workout, your body has even quicker access to the fuel it needs in the form of circulating blood glucose. Your blood glucose is a measure of the broken down carbohydrates you consume and increases and decreases when you eat. Your liver also plays an important role in releasing glycogen (a storage form of glucose) when your blood glucose is running low and you are far from having a snack or meal. All of these components help to maintain the most readily available source of energy your body uses to function (carbohydrates!! aka - glucose).

This is why having a small snack before a workout can be a game changer in performance, but it is important to note that this snack is rather small - roughly 10-15 grams of carbohydrates. This ensures that the body is able to break down this source of energy quickly and efficiently and not make you feel overly full - which could negatively impact how you feel and your workout performance.

We will go over an example of what this might look like WHILE hitting your macros below.

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Re-fueling

A vital component to training and and eating like a gymnast is also re-fueling like a gymnast! Although refueling can take a little extra planning, this practice is vital in getting the best out of all that hard work!

Refueling allows the body to repair and restore the energy it needed to perform and complete training and build muscle! Both protein and carbohydrates are important factors with creating a refueling practice. Carbohydrates are important to include with a refueling routine to replenish glycogen stores while protein is essential for repairing and building lean tissue.

The window of opportunity for a post exercise snack is within 30 minutes (ideally) but, if this is not possible - better late than never!

A good practice (and continuing from last week’s blog about How to Hit your Macros) is to take your snacks and use them to support your workouts. For example, let’s take the breakdown from last week and create a hypothetical snack plan:

1500 calorie diet comprised of 40% carbohydrate/35% protein and 25% fat

Breakfast:

33 grams protein/38 grams carb/14 grams fat

Snack 1:

16 grams protein/19 grams carb

Lunch:

33 grams protein/38 grams carb/14 grams fat

Snack 2:

17 grams protein/19 grams carb

Dinner:

33 grams protein/38 grams carb/14 grams fat

Taking a closer look at the mid-morning and afternoon snacks, we have some macros to play with. Let’s also hypothesize that a workout will be completed in the morning before lunch. Separating the macro allotment for the mid-morning snack we can create a pre and post workout snack. For example, if we have 19 grams of carbs to work with from the morning snack, then let’s separate this in to 10-15 grams of carbs before and combine with 16 grams of protein for after the workout + remaining carbohydrates to meet our goal (and to get even more precise, use a little from the afternoon snack to even everything out). Current sports nutrition research suggests that a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is best for optimal recovery, but remember - you don’t have to be perfect!

Pre-workout: ½ cup unsweetened applesauce (10g)

Post workout refueling: *smoothie: ¾ cup greek yogurt (14g protein/6g carb) + 1 medium banana (2g protein/27g carb) + ½ cup spinach (0.5 protein/0.5g carb) + 2 tsp honey (0g protein/12g carb)

*information exported from MyFitnessPal

By focusing on specific macronutrient timing, you provide your body with the fuel it needs to perform and complete your activity and also help the post workout recovery process by focusing on a good source of protein paired with a serving of carbohydrates. You can also adjust by incorporating the “second snack” in the afternoon, like shown above - to make the pre and post workout macros more significant and almost like another meal. All can be adjusted! This is what the new breakdown would look like for the entire day:

Breakfast:

33 grams protein/38 grams carb - 11g for pre-workout = 27g carb/14 grams fat

Pre-workout: ½ cup unsweetened applesauce (11g) *moved from breakfast

Post workout refueling: *smoothie: ¾ cup greek yogurt (14g protein/6g carb) + 1 medium banana (2g protein/27g carb) + ½ cup spinach (0.5 protein/0.5g carb) + 2 tsp honey (0g protein/12g carb) [45.5g carb/16.5g protein ~ 3:1 ratio]

Lunch:

33 grams protein + 9 g protein = 42g protein/38 grams carb/14 grams fat

Snack 2:

Separated in to additional protein for lunch/dinner

Dinner:

33 grams protein + 8g protein = 41g protein/38 grams carb/14 grams fat

This does not have to be exact, but it is helpful to review what this might look like in terms of macro breakdowns while incorporating a pre and post workout refueling routine.

Here is the new macro counts for the day:

Totals (estimates): ~159 grams carbohydrate/133 grams protein/42 grams fat

Here are some examples of easy to grab pre and post workout snacks:

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PRE:

Carbohydrate Source  - Simple, Easy to Digest!

  • Apple sauce (½ cup) Or ½ medium apple

  • ½ medium banana

  • Whole grain crackers (serving size relative to nutrient information)

POST:

Carbohydrate Source + Protein

*dependent on macro needs, adjust serving sizes accordingly

  • Banana + PB

  • Yogurt + berries

  • Whole grain toast + PB

  • Fruit + Protein/PB smoothie

The important message to grasp from this blog is that having fuel to perform your workout and to replenish the energy to used is vital for performance and recovery. Even if you have time for only a banana after a workout, that still provides your body with something to break down and start the repair and recovery process. Ideally, the window of opportunity is within 30 minutes of a workout and for a pre-workout snack having this 30 minutes - 1 hour beforehand is best. If you eat too close to a workout this can lead to intestinal distress - leaving you feeling rather uncomfortable as your body attempts to digest your food instead of pump blood to your working muscles.

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The next time you are planning out your week and know you have some tough workouts ahead, try this breakdown and compare how your body feels during and after your workout. It might just make the difference you need to get to that next level in your training! Also, knowing that each individual is very different and will require different needs - modifying this plan accordingly is essential and trying out different combinations and timing practices is best to determine what fits your needs and routine!


References:

  • Sports Nutrition Fact Sheets.” CPSDA | SportsRd.org | Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association, www.sportsrd.org/?page_id=1747.

Danielle Gray