Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

There are many complexities and different ideas in the fitness industry and one that is very diverse in opinion is the topic of pre and post workout nutrition.  I will refer to it as peri workout nutrition, and for the sake of my sanity I'll shorten workout to WO.  I’m also going to go over different styles of peri WO nutrition in regards to early morning fasted training, pre WO meals, post WO meals, and as much as I can think of.

I personally like lifting in the morning semi-fasted, and I personally like having my biggest meal of the day post WO.  For example, my post WO meal consists of roughly 1,300 calories, about 120g of Carbs, about 30g of Fat, and about 120g of protein.  Again it changes depending on what I decide to eat, but those are rough ballpark estimates. 

One more thing before I start.  It’s largely important to realize nutrient timing is largely IRRELEVANT.  What’s more important is you hit your caloric target, and macronutrient target for the day.  Once that’s nailed down, then you can focus on nutrient timing to get an extra benefit.

Fasted Training (With BCAA’s Prior)

For some of us, our schedule only permits us to train early in the morning, or that’s just our preference.  Those who work the normal American 9-5 shift might have to get their training in at 6:00 AM, and may not have time or want to wake up and eat a meal, wait, digest, then go train.  Some of us just aren’t breakfast people and rather just lift on an empty stomach.  Some may find that food prior to working out gives them a “heavy” feeling and slows them down. No matter the reason for training fasted, I strongly recommend consuming about 10g of BCAA’s (Branch Chained Amino Acids) prior to training fasted, so making it semi-fasted I guess, in order to prevent muscle loss and prevent protein breakdown while you workout. This method is similar to Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains guide, and I definitely recommend checking out his website: Lean Gains. You’ll learn everything you need to know about fasted training and intermittent fasting on his site, and I’m not going to pretend to know more than him.

The BCAA’s supplement I take is Optimum Nutrition’s BCAA 5000 (5g per serving) or Optimum Nutrition’s Amino Energy (4 scoops = 10g Amino Acids and you get some boost with some caffeine in this product as well). Why train with BCAA’s prior to your workout? Training fasted with BCAA’s prior has been proven to increase p70S6k phosphorylation. What does this mean? It means that by training fasted, with BCAA’s intake prior, there is an increase in protein synthesis at the ribosome.  Check out this study, which explains it better than I ever could: Fasted Training & BCAA's. Fasted training has its advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll cover below:


·      - Fat can be the preferred source of fuel, instead of glucose from a pre WO meal.
·      - Feel lighter and less cumbersome without food in the stomach.
·      - Increased p70S6k phosphorylation
·      - Increased insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (Glucose Tolerance after Fasted Training)
·      - Some note an increase in focus


·      - Some say they have a lack of energy
·      - Without BCAA supplementation, intense workouts can result in muscle loss

While I can only really think of more advantages than disadvantages, those are two pretty big disadvantages.  Obviously no one wants to lose hard earned muscle, and obviously no one wants to be tired and groggy when they’re trying to push themselves to grow.  It’s something you should try and note how you feel; it’s definitely not for everyone. 

Post Workout Feeding

Post workout feeding after fasted training has been shown to have an increase in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (Note the study above).  There’s also an increase in nutrient partitioning because of this increase in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity (More nutrients to muscle cells for recovery).  Because of this increase in glucose tolerance and better nutrient partitioning, I recommend having the majority of your carbohydrates post WO. A protein/carbohydrate shake can be had if you please; however I prefer to eat my calories.  This meal should consist of high quality protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat if you’d like.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not fall into the “But bro, consuming dietary fat post WO will slow gastric emptying and cause the nutrients to be delivered at a slower pace to your muscles! You’ll lose your gains!” Err. Wrong. *Points to corner*

Your body is much more efficient than you think, and you will get your nutrients.  Whether its in 45 minutes or an hour and a half, there won’t be a noticeable difference. The “post WO anabolic window” is something that has been shout down as of late and largely overstated.
Since you’re training fasted too, you have the opportunity to make this meal bigger, which was the biggest selling point to me.  I consume about 60-70% of my carbohydrates in this meal.  Then I split the protein and fat intake evenly across all of my meals.

The "Post Workout Anabolic Window" is BroScience at it's finest

The Guide

·      - 20-30 minutes prior to training, consume 10g’s of BCAA’s (I suggest powder, as taking down 20 pills can be quite obnoxious and expensive)
·      - Post workout, get your carbs and protein in, and DO NOT be afraid to have some dietary fat.
·      - I like to consume the majority of my carbs in this meal to take advantage of higher glucose tolerance, but again hitting your daily totals is more important.
·      - Protein shakes/carbohydrate powders are fine, but again, I’d rather eat my calories than drink them. Also, buying these can be very expensive over time.
·      - Just for an example, My Post WO Meal today:
o   4 oz granny smith apple cut into slices with cinnamon sprinkled on top
§  About 60 calories, 15g Carbs (3g Fiber), 0g Fat, 0g Protein
o   2 cups Unsweetened almond milk, with 5g BCAA and 3g creatine
§  80 calories, 4g Fat, 2g Carbs (2g Fiber), 7g Protein
o   Whey protein donut (My girlfriend bakes these for me and I love them)
§  1 donut = 60 calories, 2g Fat, 5g Carbs (3g Fiber), 6g Protein
o   Whey waffle (My own recipe) with 2 TB all natural peanut butter
§  475 calories, 18g Fat, 19g Carbs (7g Fiber), and 48g Protein
o   1 and ¼ cup old-fashioned oats with two scoops of whey mixed in.
§  635 calories, 12g Fat, 74g Carbs (10g Fiber), and 62g of Protein
Totals are about 1,310 calories, 36g Fat, 115g Carbs (25g Fiber), and 123g Protein

Training with a Pre Workout Meal

For those of us who do like to eat prior to the workout, there are a couple of options.  For pure performance in the gym, it would make sense to have some carbohydrates prior to training to provide your body with blood glucose for energy. I would say the larger the meal you have, the more time you should wait before working out, as training on a full stomach can be very uncomfortable.


·      - More energy
·      - More nutrients for better recovery mid workout
·      - Essentially no protein breakdown
·      - For those who like food or a meal prior to training, can result in better performance


·      - Glucose is the preferred source of energy, rather than fat
·      - Too big of a meal can result in a lethargic, cumbersome feeling

Personally, I’d follow Lyle McDonald’s recommendation from his website, Body Recomposition, and consume 0.13-0.22 g/lb of carbohydrate and protein 30 minutes prior to training.  So for a 150 lb male, this equals about 20-33g of carbohydrate and protein 30 minutes prior to the workout.  So a meal to fit these macros could be one of my favorites, protein oats, or proats for short.  Simply take ½ cup old-fashioned oats, microwave with water, and then add 1 scoop of whey protein AFTER COOKING.  Should be roughly 280 calories, 5g Fat, 30g Carbs (4g Fiber) and 30g Protein.

If you choose to have a larger meal, just simply wait until you feel as though you’ve digested the food so you do not hinder performance.  For those who are on the go and do not have time to make a meal prior to training, a whey protein shake and a piece of fruit, such as a banana or an apple, is a fine substitute. This is perfect if you workout right after school or immediately following work. This is easy to carry and easy to have about 20-30 minutes prior to training.

Post Workout Feeding

I recommend consuming a meal of carbohydrates and protein after your workout to help in recovery.  While your insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance isn’t nearly as high than it would be with fasted training, there still is higher insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.   I personally would have the majority of my carbohydrates in this meal also. If you’d like to have some fat in this meal, by all means go for it.  Again, meal timing for the most part is irrelevant as long as you hit your daily caloric target and macronutrient targets. 

The Guide

·     - About 30 minutes prior to training, try to consume a small meal of slow digesting (Low glycemic) carbs and some protein           
o   0.13-0.22 g/lb of carbohydrate and protein (According to Lyle McDonald)
·     - Larger meals = longer wait prior to the gym
·     - Post workout is similar to the post above, carbs, protein and some fat if you please. Just      make it fit your macros, and again you can take advantage of some increase in glucose    tolerance.
o   Lyle recommends about 0.3-0.5 g/kg in protein and 0.3-1.5 g/kg of carbohydrate

So there you have it, a simple primer and outline to peri workout nutrition.  Again the goal here is what works best for you. I like training fasted, but many of my friends rather train with some food prior to their workout.  The most important part is finding what makes you perform best in the gym, as your performance in the gym is what ultimately helps your body grow!  Eventually I’ll write an article regarding food choices for each macronutrient and what’s “optimal,” but consider this a very brief guide to follow.  I also like to note quickly that the number of meals is completely and utterly irrelevant.  There is no metabolic fire, your metabolism and thermic effect is based on calories consumed, not how many meals.  So a larger meal will result in bigger metabolism boost, and smaller meals will result in smaller, but more frequent metabolic boosts.  In the end, they're equal. I only eat two meals a day, one post workout, then dinner.  I find that giant meals make me feel more satisfied and physique has never been better following this style of dieting.  

Again if you have any suggestions for articles or questions, please ask on twitter (@SM_StrongBody) or email (raponte2@yahoo.com).

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