What you eat before and after a workout can have a big impact on the results that you see. To make the most of your efforts, follow these tips from Juan Carlos Simó, a Poliquin strength coach and Bio-signature practitioner with years of functional medicine experience and the owner of Workout RD, an elite personal training facility in the Dominican Republic. And whenever possible, choose high-quality nutrition: organic, grass-fed or wild, and stay away from artificial flavors and colors.
Before a workout
Pre-workout snacks should be eaten approximately 1 to1 .5 hours before training. Portion size is important and should be kept to around 4 ounces so that training doesn’t interfere with digestion. Make sure you are properly hydrated; dehydration will keep you from seeing results.
If you are strength training, your pre-workout meal should include caffeine, almonds or avocados, all of which trigger dopamine release. Dopamine is involved in motivation, drive, interest and muscle control and function – and these neurotransmitters can affect athletic performance.
Try wild caught salmon with a handful of almonds, Carpaccio made from grass-fed beef paired with avocado, or 2-3 sardines with a small portion of caviar.
These combinations will have a positive effect on the nervous system, especially when combined with a small cup of organic coffee or green tea. For added variety, berries are a good option since they don’t interfere with dopamine levels. Always avoid carbohydrates and sugars; they increase serotonin instead of dopamine.
If you want to increase your muscle mass, you should aim to increase your insulin levels before working out. The optimal pre-workout meal should include a serving of lean protein such as fish, turkey, or egg whites along with a complex carbohydrate that is either the same size as the protein or a little larger (sweet potato or wild rice).
After a workout
To increase both strength and muscle mass, your post-workout meal should contain both protein and carbohydrates.
A liquid meal, like whey protein, should contain a ratio of 1 gram of protein for every 4 grams of carbohydrates and should be consumed right after your workout.
Adding a green drink (a combination of spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery, and other greens) to your routine can help speed recovery by up to 50 percent by increasing alkalinity and counteracting the effects of the lactic acid produced by strength-training.
Liquid meals should be followed about an hour later by a snack containing a lean protein and a complex carbohydrate of the same size or a little larger. Good options include egg whites and oatmeal, turkey and a sweet potato, or chicken and wild rice.
Want to lose weight?
If fat loss is your goal, Simó recommends working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This forces the body to use its own energy stores and break down fat for energy.
Instead of having a post-workout snack, aim to have a full meal (preferably breakfast) about an hour after your workout. Portion control is important, make sure you are consuming fewer calories than you burn throughout the day.
CrossFit and nutrition
CrossFit has become increasingly popular and is a competitive sport for some enthusiasts. Dane Wilson, a CrossFit coach and private trainer at GSX CrossFit in Fort Worth, TX, recommends following a Paleo style diet for optimal results.
Dane suggests a pre-workout snack containing fats and green vegetables and 20 to 40 grams of lean protein (broccoli, chicken breast and a handful of almonds).
Within an hour of completing a workout, eat a portion of lean protein and some carbohydrates. Try kale with fish or chicken breasts paired with an apple or sweet potato.
These nutritional tweaks can make a huge difference if you haven’t been seeing the results you want. Remember: you can never out-train a poor diet.