Ever wonder what you should eat before and after you train? Well, i’m going to help you figure that out.
First things first, consistency trumps all. It’s the foundation from which all success blossoms.
When it comes to your nutrition before a strength training session you want to focus on a well rounded whole food meals. What do I mean by well rounded? I mean that I recommend your meal has a source of protein, carbs and fat, ideally. Vegetables would be icing on the cake because vegetables are just plain great for you. The reason I recommend a whole food meal is that it digests slower and will help keep your blood sugar levels more consistent throughout your session. That’s not to say the occasional protein shake cannot be subbed in here and there but whole food is king. Whole food meals also provide satiety during training. Personally, I absolutely loathe training when i’m hungry and it throws off my focus so I stick with whole foods.
How soon should you eat before training? This varies from person to person as each of us digests at a different rate. In general 60-90 minutes before training is a good length of time. This allows the digestion process to begin so you are not left feeling like your food is just sitting in your stomach. Giving yourself that amount of time between eating and training also has a positive effect of your bodies’ focus of blood flow. After a substantial meal a large amount of blood travels to your digestive system to help process your food. This leaves less blood available for your muscle tissue while you train. By allowing that window of time you will help to control this issue. For some, 60 – 90 minutes is not enough time and may need to eat upwards of 2 hours before. For some individuals including myself, 30 minutes is enough time to feel ready to train after eating.
Should I eat a lot of carbs or just a little before I train? First, I’ll start by saying, the carbs you eat today will fuel you tomorrow. Carbs will raise your blood sugar levels in the moment allowing you to feel ready to train. The storage of those carbs however, in one form or another, will take place hours after you consume it.
The amount of carbs you need depends largely on your training modality. Let’s say you are powerlifting and your training session for the day consists of 8 sets of 5 reps or less. an excess of carbs is not necessary as you won’t tap into much of your glycogen stores being that your sets won’t last that long. Now, let’s say you are a bodybuilder or are doing some moderate rep hypertrophy training around the 8-12 rep range. In this scenario carbs consumed the day before are much more important since each of your sets will last longer. Those carbs will ensure you have plenty of glycogen in your muscles to support your training session.
Consuming carbs right before training will ensure that your blood sugar levels are adequate and ready to support you through your training. Now, it’s important to keep in mind is not all carbs are created equal. I recommend eating lower to moderate glycemic carbs such as oatmeal, potatoes, rice or wheat pasta as they digest slower and will provide sustained energy. Stay away from sugary carbs as they will cause a fast blood sugar spike but shortly after they often cause a crash. This will leave you feeling low to no energy, lethargic and zap your performance for the remainder of that session.
In conclusion, focus on well rounded whole food meals as they provide the best satiation and prolonged energy release. If you training sets are short in duration then excess carbs need not be a major focus. If your sets are moderate to longer in duration then make sure you eat adequate carbs the day before your session to ensure your glycogen tanks are filled. Make sure you eat before you train to get your blood sugar in a state to support your training help optimize your performance.
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Until next time, Be Relentless.