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Fitness & Health

17th Dec 2018

Nutrient timing: what to eat around a workout and when

Breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day. Nutrient timing - what you eat around training and when - really makes the difference

Alex Roberts

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? Probably not…

What you eat before, during and after a workout really has the biggest impact on your gym progression. Nutrient timing – i.e. what you eat around a workout and when – will help you get the most out of training.

Here is how to structure your daily nutrition when a workout is on the cards:

Two hours before your workout

Eat a meal two to three hours before training. It should consist of:

  • Low GI carbs: these are digested very gradually by your body, providing a stable release of energy. Examples of low GI carbs include brown and basmati rice, sweet potato and quinoa.
  • Lean protein: consume at least 20 grams of protein with minimal fat – from sources such as turkey breast, chicken breast and white fish (cod, tilapia etc.).
  • Drink between 350-500ml of water too. The American College of Sports Medicine recommend drinking this amount of fluid two to four hours before training.

Fatty foods should be very limited in this meal, as they slow the digestion of food by your body. When you’re going to be hitting the gym, you need more readily-available energy.

Half an hour before training

Right before your workout, it’s wise to consume rapidly-absorbed foods.

  • Eat a piece of fruit such as a large banana.
  • Consume 20-40 grams of whey protein in a shake with water or skimmed milk.

Fifteen minutes pre-workout

  • Drink a strong cup of coffee before hitting the gym. Energy drinks and pre-workouts also contain caffeine and are fine if you can handle them – but they do contain additional ingredients.
  • Caffeine stimulates your body’s production of adrenaline, making your rate of effort in training much lower. This means you can lift heavier weights for longer.

During your workout

  • Bodybuilders in competition season often take BCAAs as they provide the body with protein when solid food is kept to a minimum.
  • However, providing you’ve consumed enough protein with your pre-workout meal and shake, there is no real need to consume amino acids while training.
  • Drink 250ml of water at the beginning of your session. Take sips in between sets, or larger gulps every quarter of an hour until you finish.

After your workout

  • Consume 20-40 grams of whey protein in a shake with water or skimmed milk.
  • Have this shake alongside some high-GI carbs – which are digested very quickly by the body. Examples include bananas, honey and cereals.
  • Have your post-workout meal within two hours of finishing your workout. This should contain a lean protein source alongside low-GI carbs and a thumb-sized serving of fat.
  • You may have been told about an ‘anabolic window’ whereby you have to consume your meal within 30 minutes of working out. But there is no such thing.

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