What you eat and when you eat it can make all the difference to how you perform in the gym. It’s no good hitting the gym on an empty stomach.
Once your body has used up all the glycogen available it may start burning off hard-earned muscle to supply it with the extra energy it needs.
A lack of energy can also make it hard to train with the required intensity and will sap the muscles of power.
Many bodybuilders, especially rookie bodybuilders (both men and women) may have experienced days when they are unable to do the same number of reps as they did in a prior session.
They may feel too drained to give it their all.
This doesn’t just apply to bodybuilders but anyone who works out
Fuelling your body is very important
Admittedly such poor training sessions can be the result of a number of different problems, but in many cases it can be traced to a lack of correct nutrition.
Pre-workout nutrition is important is every bit as important as post-workout nutrition.
Energy for Lifting Weights
Lifting weights is hard work, it takes energy; so it’s important to ensure that vital energy is available when it’s needed.
There are, of course, any number of pre-workout shakes and other supplements available, and some of them are pretty good.
A few are excellent, but supplements are no the be all and end all when it comes to bodybuilding.
Excellent results can be obtained by bodybuilders who eat the right foods at the right time and then put in the required work.
The Top Ten Foods to Eat Before Going to the Gym
Fruity Yoghurt: Take a ¼ to ½ cup of low-fat yoghurt and toss in a handful of blueberries or strawberries to ensure a healthy mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and Vitamin C.
It’s optional, but a handful of wholegrain cereal will provide an extra dose of complex carbs to ensure an ongoing supply of energy.
Eggs and Toast: A couple of pre-workout soft boiled eggs will be a great protein provider and some whole meal toast.
Cut into strips, it can provide complex carbs. So dipping a few soldiers is as good a way as any to ensure an ongoing energy supply is available to dip into when needed.
Vegetarian Omelette (2 eggs): The eggs provide the protein again, but this time the complex carbs come courtesy of the vegetables.
Tomatoes are good, as are onions (if your training partner does not object). A few peas or broad beans can provide further protein.
Some red pepper can assist with fat burning, but most vegetables are fine—it’s all a matter of preference.
Flapjack and Beetroot juice: The oats provide the complex carbs and the beetroot juice can boost nitrogen levels.
Some studies show beetroot juice may also help ensure the muscles use up energy stores more slowly.
Eating Before a Workout
Semolina Pudding: There’s no need to pull out the measuring jug and the scales.
Semolina from a tin is just fine and is a great provider of protein and complex and simple carbs. It can be eaten hot or cold—it doesn’t matter—and a handful of raisins or sultanas will provide a little extra nutritional value.
Small mixed salad with eggs or tuna: Carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals—what more could a body need?
But consider skipping the dressing. Mayonnaise is particularly bad—it’s usually around 75% fat.
Banana Sandwich (wholemeal bread): Bananas are fantastic energy providers and sandwiching them between a couple of slices of wholemeal bread can further enhance the banana buzz.
Pasta: Fancy a little pre-workout pasta? Good idea. A cupful should be enough and why not toss in a few prawns to provide a little extra protein.
Wholegrain Crackers with Cottage Cheese: Not to everybody’s taste.
Nutritionally it’s the business and should help you do the business in the gym. Throw over a little black pepper. It will add to the taste.
Black pepper also contains an alkaloid called piperine that has proven fat burning abilities.
Fruit and Whey Smoothie: Blend half a pint of milk with a scoop of whey and a handful of strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
Timing Is Everything
It’s never advised to train on a freshly-filled stomach.
It can take a little time for the digestive juices to get to work, so pre-workout snack and meals should be eaten half-an-hour to an hour before training is commenced.
It allows the stomach a little time to settle and ensures an available supply of energy at the time when the body will need it the most.
10 Best Foods to Eat After Working Out at the Gym
The importance of post-workout nutrition should never be underestimated.
Eating the wrong foods or combinations of foods can severely impair muscle gains or fitness.
The correct foods, eaten at the correct time can ensure accelerated muscle repair and maximum growth.
Slogging through an intense training regimen puts a strain on the body and it cannot replenish damaged tissues unless it has correct materials at hand.
Protein and Carbs
Protein is one of these important body-building materials.
The other is high glycemic (GI) carbohydrate.
The body uses the one to repair damaged muscle tissue and the other to replenish its glycogen stores—so it’s not all about protein; it’s about getting the correct balance.
One study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows eating a combination of carbs and protein after a workout can provide increased strength and improved body composition, and other studies provide similar indications.
What Not to Eat
Although a small amount of dietary fat is required to maintain normal health, fatty foods should be excluded from the post-workout meal
This is because the presence of fat in the stomach can slow the absorption of important nutrients at a time when they are needed the most.
Low GI carbohydrates are also best avoided as well
Although they are just the ticket for a pre-workout energy provider, their slow absorption rate means they will not provide energy quickly enough to satisfy the body post-workout requirements.
What to Eat
There are any number of wholesome choices, but examples of pec-pumping, bicep-building post-workout foods include:
Greek Yoghurt: It’s official—the Greeks do it better.
Greek yoghurt contains twice as much protein than normal yoghurt, and it is also loaded with carbohydrate.
Toss in some watermelon or slices of very-ripe banana to provide additional nutrients and put the muscle-building process into overdrive.
Whey Powder (Shake): Always one of the most popular protein providers, whey’s quick absorption rate makes it very effective for post-workout use.
Blend it with some fresh orange squash, or throw in a very ripe banana and a teaspoon of sugar or honey, to quickly top-up energy stores.
Tuna Fish Sandwich (White Bread): Tuna is great for providing high quality protein and it is low fat too!
White bread releases its energy more quickly than brown or wholemeal bread so a quick tuna sandwich offers fast muscle-building benefits.
Cornflakes (With Sugar and Low-Fat Milk): Unlike oats, cornflakes are a high GI cereal option and they tend to be much easier to prepare (Yay! No burned pans).
Cookies and (Low Fat) Milk: Cookies and milk are not only for bed time
They are also great for muscle-building time, but don’t be overly generous with the cookies or the muscle gains could be accompanied by some fat gains.
Baked Potato with Tuna and Sweetcorn: It’s a very nutritious meal that should flood the muscles with vital nutrients.
Stick to ultra-low mayonnaise or substitute for low-fat salad cream.
Cottage Cheese on Rice Cakes: Cottage cheese is an acquired taste, and some people compare rice cakes to polystyrene, but it’s a light-weight snack that can deliver heavy-hitting results and turbocharge muscle growth.
A Nice Jammy Bagel (Or Two): Bagels are generally around 10% protein and are also a high GI carb provider.
Jam is also high GI, but it can be replaced with a combination of cottage cheese (more protein) and a pineapple slice. Don’t forget to have fun lining up the hole in the bagel with the hole in the pineapple slice.
Chicken Baguette: White meat in a white baguette, with or without (preferably without) some low-fat spread.
It’s easy to prepare, provides fast-acting nourishment, and tastes pretty good too.
Creatine: Although it will not provide the vital nutrients the body needs to get those muscles in tip-top condition.
It does have the ability to increased protein synthesis. Some studies also indicate creatine may have the power to trigger the release of anabolic hormones.
When to Eat and How Much to Eat
To maximize muscle growth at least 30g of protein and 30g to 35g of high GI carbs should be consumed within 15 minutes of finishing the workout.
Those who are training to shed a few excess pounds or to stay in shape are not under quite the same pressure to eat.
Delaying the post-workout meal for longer than 60 minutes is not recommended.