We need to understand something as soon as possible: If we do not cover/supply the amount of calories used during training, we immediately stop gaining as much benefit from it as we could, this meaning that we don’t improve our performance as much as we could, we don’t gain as much muscle as we could, we don’t lose as much fat as we could and we are more prone to losing muscle and aerobic capacity. We all train for different reasons, being the most popular one, weight/fat loss. I will explain the theory behing what to eat before, during and after training (boring part) and then give you examples of what to eat before training , as well as to what to eat during training and what to eat after training .
The theory behind covering calories:
Contrary to popular belief, if we do not eat/cover AT LEAST half the amount of calories used during training, achieving our personal goals becomes harder, whether you are a high performance athlete or a casual one. In this one, I am going to give some tedious but highly important information about WHY we should eat and what are the factors that condition this; if you don’t want to read them, you can go directly to this link: What to eat before, during and after training; practical examples.
Before jumping to the practical options about what to eat in every situation, we need to understand some basic concepts: Volume of each meal, caloric density, absorption speed, macronutrient input and timing.
The volume of each meal is crucial, since too much food before and during the workout will bring gastrointestinal distress and metabolism problems. On the contrary, too little food will provide an insufficient amount of calories, resulting in premature exhaustion. On general terms, we need low volume of food before and during each WO and high/unrestricted volume after. Keep in mind that this only refers to the actual VOLUME of the meals.
This one goes hand in hand with volume, since even though we can provide a low volume meal to our bodies before training, this meal could still have a high caloric input. This means that a low volume/high caloric input meal before training could still present digestive tract problems during our WO. Normally, it is advised to use a high-density calorie meal before training, medium/high one during and medium/high after. It is not possible to make it specific or an individual rule since every workout varies depending on the sport, intensity and duration.
Absorption speed (AS):
Every part of training has a different absortion speed requirement. Before training we need to provide of bodies with a moderate AS meal, so it can provide with immediate energy, but also keep an energy reserve. During training we need to have a fast AS snack/supplement to maintain performance and avoid exhaustion, either mental of physical. Lastly, after training we need to provide first a high AS meal, and 15 – 20 minutes later, a slow AS food source. For example, sugar or maltodextrin are considered to be high AS and brown rice or integral bread are good examples of slow AS.
Before training we need a mixture of mainly carbohydrates (simple and complex ones) and a little bit of unsaturated fat, preferably from a vegetable source. During treaining we only need carbohydrates. After training we need all of the 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and lipids, being the relevance order the following: First we need carbohydrates, secondly we need a mixture of protein and lipids, but only after 15 – 20 minutes of having ingested a good carbojhydrate source. This destroy the popular myth that a protein supplement is required right after a training session.
This concept is a little bit harder to understand, since it is not as tightly related to training as the previous ones. We need to grasp the concept that we should feed our bodies with certain kind of nutrients hours before and hours after every training session. It’s not all about what we eat immediately before, during and after our workouts, but also how we prepare our bodies in the morning of a day we have a late afternoon training session or the dinner in an early morning training session day. This is a more global concept and we will dive in it in another article.
Understanding the theory:
Now that we know and understand the basic concepts we can know the ideal way to put them into practice:
- Before training, we must have a medium volume meal, around 15 – 30 minutes before starting the WO, depending on how we feel and how fast our bodies metabolize the food we provide. The caloric density should be medium/high with a medium/fast absorption speed. In regard of macronutrients, we need to provide a good source of complex/simple carbohydrates, a medium amount of lipids and as little as possible protein. The timing depends on the time of the day that we train, if it is really early in the morning, we should wake up 20 minutes earlier and have a high carbohydrate supplement, only to ensure that these are digested in a short period and that we are not sacrificing too much sleeping hours to fix a meal.
- During training we need a medium/low volume of nutrients, with a really high caloric density and absorption speed, to ensure an efficient stomach emptying time. The only macronutrient needed in this stage is carbohydrates. There is no need to supply protein or lipids. Timing depends of the duration: a 1-hour WO needs only 3 point of supply; before, during and after. A 3 hour WO needs 5 points of energy supply: before, one every 45 minutes and after.
- After every training session, it is ideal to have a medium/high volume calorie supply, with a medium/high caloric density and a high absorption speed at first and a slow AS for the protein. In this case, every macronutrient is important, keeping in mind that they should come in different times; carbohydrates come first, immediately after finishing. Protein and lipids come 15 – 20 minutes after and, if we train in the mornings, we need to supply a steady amount of carbohydrates and protein every 3 – 4 hours.
Practical Options for Before, During and After Training:
- Before Training:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in brown bread
- 01 bowl of cooked oats with granola, coconut oil and honey
- 01 bowl of chopped fruit with flax seeds and granola
- 01 pack of integral crackers with avocado
- During Training:
- 01 rehydrating beverage
- 01 scoop of maltodextrin + 01 scoop of amino acids
- Dried fruits
- After Training:
- Rehydrating beverage
- A granola bar
- 15 – 20 minutes later:
- 01 scoop of protein powder + 01 slice of integral bread
- 01 turkey breast and olives/avocado sandwich
- 01 bowl of cooked oats w/1/2 scoop of protein powder