You want to maximize your workout nutrition plan? Of course you do, if you are putting in the time and effort at the gym you might as well get the most out of it by optimizing your nutrition. Throughout this blog we will cover dietary recommendations for your pre-workout, intra workout, post workout and post workout meals or your "Workout Window". Now keep in mind these meals and ratios may be a little different for everyone depending on the time your workout as well as the number of meals you consume in a day. For the simplicity, we will assume that you are working out around 5pm and consuming 5 meals in a day.
This would be the meal you consume approximately 1-3 hrs before your workout. This is a tricky one because it will depend on how strong your stomach is! If you are feeling a little green during your workouts when you have had a meal to close, then push back your meal time and increase the amount of fat consumed. I like this meal to be a whole foods meal that contains 1/5th of your protein (approximately 15-40g) for the day with a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of protein to carbs (rice, beans, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, etc). Add in a cup or two of veggies and keep your fat content lower unless you are consuming this meal more than 2 hrs before your workout.
Example Pre-workout meal-
5 oz. Grilled Chicken Breast
1/4 cup (uncooked measurement) Brown Rice
1 cup boiled broccoli
Unless you are serious about putting in some hard workouts or packing on some muscle just skip this section! Alright now that we got the sissies out of the room let's get to business. There shouldn't be to much to an intra workout feeding. You want to keep this very light in order avoid any gastrointestinal stress. At most you will need would want to incorporate 3-5g of Branch Chain Amino Acids and/or 20-40g of fast digesting carbohydrates such as a sugar sports drink (I usually use a serving of powdered Gatorade). This can be eliminated or reserved for some of your harder workouts.
Here is where the fun is. We all get upset at the in-shape people that are posting pictures of their post workout sugary treats. Well the good news is that with science you can indulge in the occasional sugary treat as well! The reason being is that after a hard resistance training workout your muscles are starving to replenish their glycogen (sugar) stores. Fast digesting carbohydrates are great for doing just that. What about the insulin spike? Here is where our friend Protein comes into play. If we consume a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 2:1 - 3:1 it will reduce the large insulin spike we would normally get from having those treats alone. This meal should be consumed within approximately sixty minutes post workout.
Example Post Workout Meal-
20g Whey Protein
Rice Crispy Treat
5 oz Chicken
1/4 cup sticky rice
1/2 cup Pineapple
Post-Post Workout Meal
A few hours after your workout and your stomach starts calling you to the kitchen again. This meal will look almost exactly like your Pre-workout meal with a little more carbohydrate. Your muscles are still in replenish mode but not starving. Switch your carbohydrates back to some slower digesting options such as sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta etc. Depending on your goals you want to keep the ratio of carbs to protein to 1:1 - 2:1.
Example Post-Post Workout
Turkey wrap with 5oz lean turkey veggies and a whole grain tortilla
Homemade baked sweat potato fries
I hope this helps to explain the "Workout Window". It is the time about 3 hrs before your workout and 3 hrs after. You should aim to eat most your carbohydrates within this window and keep your fats lower. Keep in mind that the harder the workout, the higher the carbohydrate content. If you are keeping your workout to a light cardio, yoga, or Pilates day, keep the carbs lower! If you are hitting the gym for a hard resistance training workout and you want to maximize your gains and your taste buds, follow these simple tips!