Here is some good news for you: nutrition is not rocket science. But, that does not mean your nutrition is easy. Understanding how you should eat for workouts is certainly a task. Hopefully your gym or coach is giving you nutrition information anytime you ask, and even better if they have a nutrition program built for the gym. However, even if you don't have access to that level of expertise, here are three quick tips for how you should eat for workouts:
In the rest of this post, you'll learn how to take those three tips and build a quality foundational nutrition plan.
In some areas, such as working out, you need variety. Not randomness, but variety. Random workouts end up with you squatting back to back days, or crushing one body part over, and over, and over. If you want to feel incredibly sore day in and day out, do that. Otherwise, stick with the constantly varied fitness routines.
Anyway, back to nutrition. Your body loves consistency in your food, and responds well to it. If you find that having a peanut butter sandwich before working out makes you feel bloated and full, don't do that. In general, your routine for how you eat for workouts should look like this:
Your plan before the workout: choose a complex carbohydrate such as apples, berries, or oats and pair it with an easily digestible protein such as whey protein, a vegan protein shake, or two slices of deli turkey. Greek yogurt is another great option.
Your plan after the workout: choose a more easily digestible carbohydrate such as a banana, white rice, or pineapple. Pair this with another easy protein such as Greek yogurt, chicken breast, or lean beef. Top off with a little bit of fat, such as a tablespoon of your favorite, all natural nut butter.
You've probably heard that protein is beneficial for building muscle. That's clearly old news. However, protein still is sold as only being necessary if you're lifting weights - nothing could be further from the truth. Protein is a necessary nutrient for life, and if you're being active in any way (resistance training, cycling, running, yoga) you will need significantly more protein than the government recommends.
Your plan for protein: don't worry about timing your protein with your workouts. Studies have shown that as long as you are consistently eating protein with your meals and snacks, you'll get all the benefits. So, don't stress run to your shaker bottle right after your workout and chug a protein shake. Simply focus on including 20-30 grams of protein in your first meal/snack after your workout. See the above plan for after the workout for a couple quick and easy ideas.
Unlike protein, carbohydrates are not necessary for survival - hence the popularity of the ketogenic diet. That does not mean carbs will make you fat. It does not mean that you should cut all carbohydrates from your diet. When you consider how you should eat for workouts, carbohydrates will almost certainly be included in your diet. However, the amount that you need will change based on what sort of workout you are doing.
Your carbohydrate plan: don't overthink this. The higher your heart rate gets, and the longer it stays elevated, the more carbohydrates will be beneficial in your diet. If you went to the gym and did squats, deadlifts, and bench press without elevating your heart rate you do not need as many carbs as you do after you run a marathon. You can think about this on a spectrum, with cardio-focused workouts on one side, and resistance training on the other side. The more your workout feels like cardio, the more carbs you can include, and vice versa.
Regardless of what type of workout you enjoy, nutrition is the building block on which all of your success is built. You can probably get away with a very average workout program on a great nutrition plan and still see results. Unfortunately, it does not work the other way around. You can have the best workout program in the world but pair it with a bad nutrition plan and you're not going to see results. If your stuck on nutrition and fitness, reach out - we'd love to help.