Knowing what to eat before and after a workout can dramatically improve your workout and may be the difference of whether or not you meet your goals, whether they’re athletic or strength-based, weight loss, or both.
If you’re not eating the right foods before your workout, not only will you not be able to perform at your best, you also may be so low on energy you have trouble even getting through your workout at all (I’ve had this happen, it’s not fun).
And if you’re not eating properly after your workout, you’re not ensuring proper muscle recovery and may be actually setting yourself up for failure, despite your best intentions.
So today, I’m excited to share some awesome workout nutrition advice by one of the top mixed martial arts coaches in the world, Funk Roberts (he’s trained today’s top MMA and UFC fighters!).
His insights on pre and post workout nutrition will help you whether you actually train in combat sports, just love boxing or kickboxing like I do, or are just looking to get more out of your workouts in general.
Learn what Funk has to say about workout nutrition (and check out November’s 100 burpee challenge rules at the bottom of this post):
What should you eat to boost your energy levels for a workout?
This is a question that most people and athletes have problems answering. There is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming.
Proper nutrition before and after your workout session can be the difference between having energy to crush through a workout and fuel the body to make the gains you are looking for… or trudging through a sluggish workout only to end up having your body eat away at what you worked so hard to build.
I will give you the information that you need to ensure you nourish your body correctly pre and post workout.
Proper nutrition is the key to getting consistent and effective workouts and fueling the body with the proper foods for muscle gain, fat loss and recovery.
Does timing actually matter when it comes to eating before and after your workouts?
Before you workout your body needs ample time to digest what you’ve put in it. A good rule of thumb is always to wait 1 hour prior to exercise. You want to make sure that you have enough time to digest the food before you embark on your workout.
Post workout nutrition should be eaten no longer than 1-2 hours after exercise. If you delay eating longer than an hour after your workout then your body begins to take those muscles you just worked so hard to get and deplete them by using them as energy for the rest of the day or night.
What are the best types of pre and post workout foods?
Prior to starting your workout, the best foods are in the form of carbohydrates and proteins. Yes I said carbs. Carbs are not bad for you when choosing the right ones.
A pre-exercise meal should include foods that are slow digesting carbs in carbohydrates and easy to digest. Foods low in carbs will release glucose gradually into the blood stream, which is what you want prior to your session to help prolong energy and physical endurance.
Don’t forget that it’s just as important to eat smart after your workout has subsided and you’ve come down. After a workout, your body is like a sponge, ready to soak up the nutrients in food to restore energy and replenish your muscles.
The best time to consume carbs from starches and fruits is in your post workout anabolic window of opportunity, which is anywhere from 1 to 3 hours after high intensity training.
A mixed meal high in fast digesting carbohydrates with moderate portion of protein and fat soon after completing the workout is best to help re-fuel carbohydrate stores after exercise and prepare your body to continue to burn fat.
After a high intensity workout or training session you should consume no less than 2 or 3 to 1 carbs to protein for best results.
Also, the right foods alone won’t get you through a workout – you’ll have to get the right hydration with water while you exercise. You should aim to drink at least at least 16 ounces of water two hours before a workout, and about 6 to 12 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. (An ounce is about a mouthful.)
What are your favorite pre and post workout foods?
Some food suggestions prior to a workout include:
- Vegetables like celery, cucumber, tomatoes
- Low-fat yogurt
- Fresh fruit such as cherries, plum, peach
- Healthy cereal
- Oat bran bread
Post workout you can increase the protein to restore your muscles, but you’ll also want some carbohydrates for recovery.
Some post-workout suggestions are:
- Greens and Vegetables
- Whey protein Fruit Smoothie
- Bagel with jelly
- Baked or steamed Sweet Potato
- Stir-fried chicken and vegetables over brown rice
- Fruit Watermelon, banana
- Sports Drink immediately after training
What types of foods do you recommend avoiding before training?
Any type of food with a lot of fat can be very difficult and slow to digest and remain in the stomach a long time. They also will pull blood into the stomach to aid in digestion, which can cause cramping and discomfort. Doughnuts, fries, potato chips, and candy bars should be avoided.
I also suggest not having any sugar prior to your workout as some people do not perform well after a blood glucose spike.
If you’re squeezing a workout into a busy schedule, you may be tempted to grab a protein bar on the way out the door, but DON’T DO IT. Most bars are “glorified candy bars, often providing even more calories and are likely to be loaded with sugar.
Caffeine had been thought to boost endurance by stimulating a greater use of fat for energy, and thereby reserving glycogen in the muscles. Research, however, doesn’t seem to support that theory. When caffeine improves endurance, it does so by acting as a stimulant.
Caffeine can have serious side effects for some people. Those who are very sensitive to its effects may experience nausea, muscle tremors, and headaches. Too much caffeine is a diuretic, and can result in dehydration, which decreases performance.
In conclusion, if you’re going to invest the time to put yourself through a productive workout, then it’s imperative to nourish your body correctly pre and post workout.
Awesome information on nutrition, thanks so much Funk!
Funk is the co-creator of the Combat Bundle, and a bundle of 72 awesome ebooks, videos, and other resources (yep, including the newest ebook by 12 Minute Athlete).
The Combat Bundle is only available for a few more days—so if you want to add variety to your workouts and bring out your inner badass, make sure to check it out soon.
November 100 burpee challenge rules
Ok you guys, don’t forget that November’s 100 burpee challenge is also this weekend! You sent in so many awesome photos last time I thought we’d try that again.
So here are the rule refreshers:
Step #1: You do the 100 burpee challenge. Make sure to keep track of your time so you know how you’re progressing from month to month. You have by the end of the weekend (November 9th) to complete the challenge.
Step #2: Immediately after you do the challenge, snap a photo (a video works too) of yourself post-challenge. Post it to either Instagram or Twitter and make sure to tag me #12minuteathlete so I can actually find your photos. If you’re feeling shy or don’t have a Twitter or Instagram account, you can also post them to the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook page or email your photo to me at [email protected] (use the subject ‘100 burpee challenge photo’ so it doesn’t get lost in my inbox), but know that if you win the contest I’ll end up posting it on social media unless you tell me otherwise.
Step #3: I’ll look over all the photos and send a shirt (or tank top) to my favorite.
Work hard, and have fun!