The link between exercise and good nutrition is very important when it comes to eating for performance.
As a professional Rugby League player over the last decade, I have learnt a lot when it comes to performing at your best and recovering. Whether it be before and after a training session, or the morning of a big game, fuelling my body to perform at its best was of utmost importance. When it comes to nutrition and weight training performance, these are some of the best ways I found helped me to prepare physically, mentally and recover the best I possibly could. For those seeking personalised advice, I suggest contacting an accredited nutritionist or dietitian.
FOOD TO EAT BEFORE A WORKOUT
Eating before a workout can fuel your body and prepare you to perform at your best. There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to eating before your training. For example, the type of training, the intensity and the time in which you will train. As a rule of thumb, the types of food I always consumed before a workout consisted of higher carbohydrate food combined with protein, such as peanut butter on toast, protein smoothies, oats/porridge, fruit, chicken and veggies. This way, my muscles were always full of glycogen (energy) and allowed me to train at my full potential. I always tried to avoid high fat meals as these tended to sit on my stomach and felt uncomfortable during high intensity training sessions.
FOOD TO EAT AFTER A WORKOUT
Eating the right foods after a workout can help to speed up your recovery time, refuel your energy reserves, and aid in repairing your muscles. Eating protein rich foods combined with carbohydrates will give your body and muscles the best opportunity to recover, restore and get the most out of your workout and workouts to follow. A few examples of nutrient dense post workout meals include grilled chicken with roast vegetables, egg omelette on toast, tuna salad on whole grain bread, Greek yogurt with berries and muesli, or meat with rice or potato. For convenience, and those on the go, a protein shake and banana was often my go-to food source.
EFFECTS OF NOT EATING AFTER A WORKOUT
During a workout your muscles use glycogen stores for fuel. After your workout, your body then tries to restore and replenish these stores. Consuming the right foods and nutrients will help speed up this process and help stimulate growth of new muscle (protein synthesis). If we do not eat after a workout, we can slow down this recovery process which can lead to increased muscle soreness, tiredness and can potentially affect your next training session. Having not recovered optimally, and depending on the intensity and frequency of your training, these effects can snowball and can potentially lead to fatigue and overuse injuries. Eating and recovering correctly after a weight session has always been important to me as my training sessions through my career were very frequent and very intense, so eating correctly for longevity was key.
IMPORTANCE OF EATING PROTEIN AFTER A WORKOUT
Protein is very important to eat post workout to help your muscles repair and rebuild. It is particularly important after a strength session if you are looking to build muscle. Protein can be consumed in a number of ways post workout through eating lean meats, dairy products, seeds and nuts. Protein powders and smoothies are another easy to consume option. As a rule of thumb, I always consume at least 20g of protein post workout as a minimum and average 1.5g – 2.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight throughout the day.
Another factor to consider is the importance of not only consuming protein but carbohydrates also. Depending on the intensity of the workout, we burn a lot of carbohydrates so consuming a combination of carbs and protein can help to replenish our body and aid in optimal recovery.
TIMING OF EATING BEFORE AND AFTER A WORKOUT
Eating for performance before a workout can be very individualised. Many people find they can exercise and feel better in a fasted state (empty stomach) but recovery can be hindered if a nutritious meal is not consumed for a number of hours afterwards. I suggest finding what works for you and helps you feel at your best during your training session.
In regards to eating after a workout, from experience try eating as soon as you feel comfortable. After an intense training session sometimes the last thing you want to think about is eating but to optimise recovery, the sooner you eat the better… but within an hour is fine. I personally find eating a small meal or having a protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing training has helped me be at my best. If you train at night after dinner you might want to have a protein shake after your session before bed. Alternatively, a high protein meal with some carbs like fish, roast potatoes and salad is great.
I suggest contacting an accredited nutritionist or dietitian for specific meal plans and sizes to mirror what your intended outcome or goal is in the weights room, whether it be to gain muscle, lose fat or just to maintain and enjoy your training.
Matt Mcilwrick, Operations Director & Performance Specialist