Are you aware of the significance of proper nutrition in fueling your workouts and building muscle as an active individual who trains in the gym? Understanding the ideal time to consume specific foods is crucial. One key aspect of muscle building is maintaining a positive protein turnover rate, which implies having more amino acids in your muscles than are being broken down. In this blog, we will explore various strategies for pre and post-workout nutrition to assist you in reaching your fitness objectives.
Timing plays a crucial role in this process. When you work out, your muscle breakdown rates increase and in order to promote muscle growth, and achieve a lean physique, it is essential to sustain protein synthesis by consuming essential amino acids. Protein becomes particularly important around workout sessions as it can deliver amino acids to your bloodstream during the exercise, when muscle breakdown is at its peak!
However, there exists a misconception about the existence of an anabolic window following a workout, where you supposedly need to consume a specific amount of protein, usually within 30 to 60 minutes after exercise. While this notion is not entirely false, it is not entirely true either. The key lies in considering your overall daily meal consumption, particularly in relation to your workout, and the timing of your meals around your workouts. For example, if you haven’t eaten a meal all day, and you work out, you should eat a high protein meal immediately following your workout. On the other hand, if you eat a meal about 60 minutes prior to your workout, then eating immediately following your workout is not as critical. Regardless, the most crucial factor is your total protein intake for the day.
If you engage in fasted early morning workouts, it is advisable to consume a meal immediately after finishing your workout. However, the approach to fasted morning workouts can differ for each individual, so it is essential to customize your approach accordingly. By incorporating both non-eating and protein-fed days, you can optimize muscle growth and minimize muscle breakdown.
Apply what we’ve discussed in this section:
Work from a 4-hour meal window around workouts: meaning, if you eat at 1pm, workout at 3pm, done by 4:30pm, you should eat or have a protein shake by 5:00pm to stay in the 4 hour window.
Protein is essential, but the overall amount of protein you consume per day is more important than whether you consume protein right after your workout or not
Fasted workouts, following, you should have a meal to ensure you stop muscle breakdown while the muscles are broken down
Protein plays a crucial role in optimizing your workout results. After a strenuous workout, it is important to provide your muscles with fast-absorbing protein to replenish the amino acids that were broken down during exercise. It is also beneficial to spike insulin levels to preserve muscle mass. If you have consumed protein prior to your workout, there is no need to immediately consume food afterwards. Aim to have a meal within a four-hour timeframe. However, if you have trained on an empty stomach or haven't eaten for a long period of time, it is recommended to consume fast-digesting protein post-workout.
One excellent option for fast-adjusting protein is whey protein isolate. This type of protein supplies your muscles with amino acids at a quicker rate, resulting in an insulin spike that promotes muscle growth while suppressing muscle breakdown; I will talk about insulin more during the carbs section in a little bit. If you have worked out while fasting, it is crucial to consume protein immediately after your workout to ensure there are sufficient amino acids in your bloodstream to be transported to the muscles that have just been broken down.
Whey Protein Isolate is particularly beneficial due to its high leucine content, which is the most essential amino acid for mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), a key regulator of muscle growth. Leucine is one of the three BCAA’s, along with isoleucine and valine, that make up a significant portion of the amino acids found in muscle tissue; leucine activates protein synthesis pathways in muscle cells, leading to muscle growth and repair, but it also plays a role in energy, immune function and the regulation of blood sugar. Needless to say, Leucine is crucial in the muscle building game!
If you do not have access to protein powder or prefer not to use it, milk can be a viable alternative for a post-workout protein drink. If you choose to use milk as your post-workout protein source, opt for organic whole milk, as it has been shown to aid in muscle building. Additionally, whole milk contains high-quality fats like CLA, which can benefit your overall fitness goals. Avoid skim milk, as it lacks beneficial nutrients. However, if you have trained hard on an empty stomach, I would still recommend whey protein isolate for its quick absorption.
Other sources of protein that can be consumed for high quality protein following a workout are: fish, chicken, eggs…
Apply what we’ve discussed in this section
Protein is essential to stop protein muscle breakdown
Protein is crucial to increase mTOR
If you choose milk, only choose Organic Grass-fed Whole Milk
Whey protein is recommended because of Leucine and fast-absorption rate
Consume 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of bodyweight per day
Carbohydrates play a crucial role in fueling your muscles before and after workouts. If your aim is to build strength or bulk up, it's important to focus on consuming high glycemic carbs prior to your training session. On the other hand, if you're engaging in longer durations of exercise, opt for slower absorbing carbohydrates, such as low glycemic carbs.
Post workout, carbohydrates are beneficial for reducing muscle breakdown and have anti-catabolic effects. Although insulin has received a negative reputation due to its association with weight gain and type two diabetes, it actually suppresses muscle protein breakdown. Studies have shown that consuming protein alone can stimulate insulin enough to inhibit muscle protein breakdown. However, carbohydrates are essential for efficiently replenishing muscle glycogen, allowing you to continue training and maintain muscle fullness. A study conducted by the University of Texas found that consuming a sufficient amount of carbohydrates post workout can lead to high levels of muscle glycogen. This highlights the importance of consuming carbohydrates after a workout, goal dependent, in order to replenish stores.
While carbohydrates are necessary for spiking insulin and preserving muscle, their importance depends on your specific fitness goals. If you aim to increase muscle mass, bulk up, or gain weight, carbohydrates are recommended. However, if your goal is to lose fat or shed pounds, carbohydrates are not essential. Regardless of your goal, consuming carbohydrates around your workout times is most effective rather than consuming them during sedentary times. Incorporate options like bananas, watermelon, white rice, and sweet potatoes into your pre and post-workout meals to meet your daily carbohydrate intake.
Watermelon is an excellent choice for post-workout carbohydrates as it helps reduce muscle soreness and breakdown, while also containing L-citrulline. Bananas are another great option as they replenish electrolytes such as magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
If your objective is to stay lean while building muscle, it's not necessary to eliminate carbohydrates entirely. Instead, consider splitting your carbohydrate intake between pre and post-workout meals.
Apply what we’ve discussed in this section
Carbs are great for replenishing muscle glycogen
The best time to eat carbs are around workout times
If your goal is merely fat loss, weight loss, you do not need carbs around workout times
Watermelon, bananas, rice and potatoes are good choices
General post-workout carb amounts can range from 30-50g, depending on workout intensity, body size, workout style, etc…
Pre-workout carbohydrate consumption, 30-60min prior, should be somewhere between 20-35g in total.
In conclusion, timing your food intake around your workouts is crucial for muscle growth and achieving your fitness goals. Including protein and carbohydrates in your pre and post-workout meals will optimize your results, especially if your priority is building muscle. However, it's important to remember that your overall macronutrient intake for the week is key. Make informed choices, educate yourself, and eat to fuel muscle growth while burning fat.
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