Our Sports Nutrition Specialist Elissa unpacks eating for performance.
“How soon after training do I need to eat?” is one of the most common questions I am asked.
For the vast majority of people, this question is the nutrition equivalent of starting to worry about your credit rating when you’re only 11 years old.
If you’re asking this question before you’ve even sorted out your total energy and protein intake, or managed to keep to a consistently balanced, predominantly whole-food diet – you’re putting the cart before the horse.
But if you’ve got all of these things sorted and you want to move to the next step, here’s a couple of tweaks you can make if you need to improve your peri-workout strategy:
1. Protein intake should be spread out evenly throughout the day. If you’re eating a meal within 1 hour of training, your protein should come in the form of a liquid instead of a solid.
>1 hour prior to training use a protein shake.
2 hours or more, consume a whole food, solid protein.
2. Carb intake is not always necessary, either before OR after
Depending upon the duration and the intensity of your training bout, you may be better off eating a source of fat. The higher the intensity and the duration, the more carbs are required to fuel your session and for some athletes they may need carbs during their training.
If you’re going for a walk to the shops, you’re hardly going to need to smash a Gatorade and some protein ASAP after you get back.
If you’re an MMA fighter, boxer or CrossFitter and you’re expected to be able to last for multiple rounds of maximal effort and you’re training multiple times per day – fuck yeah, you better get in some sugars and electrolytes or you’re gonna have a bad time.
SOME people get better results consuming fats prior to a workout, instead of carbs. This is usually the approach I use for female clients who have impaired glucose tolerance and seek fat loss, but not always. It really depends upon the individual.
The general guide to understanding if carbs are necessary for your workout is to ask;
– Is the training INTENSE? If so, you are using mostly stored carbohydrates during the session and you will need to replenish them. Consume carbs during the session for added performance, and after the session for better recovery.
– Is the training LONG? We require between 30 and 60g of glucose per hour to fuel our bodies, so for durations of an hour or more, it’s prudent to have some carbs during your training.
3. If you’re training fasted, training multiple times that day or particularly lean – meal timing is FAR more important.
Carbs both intra and post workout are more essential under these conditions, and the timing of your post workout meal is also critical. My suggestion is to consume a high protein, high carbohydrate meal within one hour of your training session.
4. The amount of time between your pre workout meal & training can dictate how soon you need your PWO meal
If you eat your preworkout really close to your training bout, then by the time you’re training the relative amino acids, carbohydrates/sugars and energy is really only just hitting your bloodstream mid-session. Therefore, you don’t need to rush your PWO in right after training.You can wait a couple of hours before you eat again.
If your pre workout meal was consumed far from your training session, then you need to refuel a bit quicker. The same applies if you’ve got more than one training session within a 24 hour window.
General advice about nutrient timing can often be confusing, because you may not know how much carbs to eat, how intense your training is or which foods are carbs. This is where I can help!
One of the best ways to figure out the most appropriate strategy for you is to work with a coach on a tailored assessment and nutrition plan.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and for a discount on a tailored nutrition plan just for TFP members.