A large, pre-workout whole food meal should be consumed approximately 2.5 to 3 hours before activity. However, to maximize each training session, athletes should always include a pre-workout snack.
The timing, type and amount of food eaten before workouts and events can drastically affect the quality of a training session and the outcome of the event. Carbohydrate is the primary energy source used by the nervous and muscular systems and is essential for peak performance. A high carbohydrate pre-workout snack with protein eaten 10 to 40 minutes beforehand can provide the energy to fuel the activity while allowing enough time for adequate digestion. Conversely, a snack high in fiber, protein or fat may not fill up muscle energy (glycogen) stores, can slow digestion, cause an upset stomach and impair performance.
The recovery process is also influenced by when and what you eat before and after activity. By eating the ideal blend of carbohydrate and protein immediately before and after exercise, you reduce muscle damage, stimulate muscle growth, refill energy stores and ensure your body is prepared for the next workout or event. Proper repair and building of tissues after each training bout can prevent chronic fatigue, injury and over-training. Pre- and post-training and event snacks should be convenient and in a rapidly digestible form. This helps deliver the necessary nutrients for growth and repair to muscles at the right times. Liquid shakes with the proper blend of nutrients are ideal because they are quickly absorbed.
Pre-workout Snack Guidelines
- In general, the proper amount of carbohydrate in a pre-workout snack can be as high as 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight (0.5g/lb) for long endurance-type activities.
- To determine the proper amount in grams, simply split your weight in half (ex. 150 lbs/2 = ~75 grams).
- Lower amounts may be adequate for strength training or workouts lasting less than an hour (~0.25gms/lb).
- Items with at least 50 percent carbs and approximately 20 percent protein and 20 percent fat are ideal.
- Pre-workout snacks should be consumed 10 to 40 minutes before activity to ensure the main gas tank is “topped off” at the onset of training and the stomach is relatively empty. This is especially important for early morning workouts.
Post-workout Snack Guidelines
There is a “metabolic window” that lasts for approximately 60 to 90 minutes after intense training when the body is highly receptive to nutrient uptake. During this timeframe, you have the best chance of reducing muscle damage, maximizing exercise induced strength and muscle size by eating the appropriate amounts of carbohydrate and protein immediately after training. This short muscle building “window” is most active the moment you cease exercise and from that time on, the muscle building/recovery activities begin to decrease. Once this window is closed, there’s no making up for the potential gains in size even if you eat perfectly the rest of the day. In other words, the immediate post-workout formula/feeding activates the muscle building process, and during this specialized time period the growth is greater than normal gains in daily muscle building that occur without consuming these pre- and post- snacks. A fast-acting liquid formula allows nutrients to be delivered to muscles to take advantage of this opportunity.
- The post-workout formula should be the same as the pre- (see above).
- Choose snacks based on convenience, preference and venue.
dotFIT Makes Your Life Easier
Traditional whole foods are not ideal pre- and post-training snacks because of the time it takes to digest solid food including extraction then absorption of the needed nutrients (about 2-3 hours). Although nutrition bars with the proper carbohydrate, protein and fat ratios can be effectively used before and after exercise, liquid is generally better for the simple reason of speed to the muscles. The dotFIT Pre/Post Workout & Meal Replacement Formula was designed with the ideal blend of nutrients needed for pre- and post-training snacks. The dotFIT FirstString™ powder is the ideal formula for youth athletes and college athletes. FirstString contains the amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat to meet NCAA guidelines. You can take your game to the next level by following the recommendations here, those in "Performance Nutrition 101" and the fluid guidelines in "Proper Hydration".