We've all heard the saying, "you can't outrun a bad diet!", and that's very true for many reasons. Not only will a bad diet make achieving your fitness goals a lot harder, but it will also make your workouts harder too! What you feed, or fuel, your body with will determine how long and hard you can train, how well you recover, and how fast you make progress. This makes pre and post-workout nutrition crucial.
What you eat before and after your workouts can be a major difference in when you reach your goals, and how effective those results are. So, to help you perform at optimal levels and maximize your hard work strength training, we've put together the ultimate guide on pre and post-workout nutrition – keep on reading to find out what are the best foods (and supplements) you should take pre-workout and post-workout.
What to eat pre-workout
When it comes to pre-workout nutrition, there's one thing everyone should avoid – working out on a full stomach. This is why some prefer working out in the morning before they eat, and because they're trying intermittent fasting. So, there are two ways you can approach pre-workout nutrition, you can work out in a fasted state or have a pre-workout meal hours before your workout, or a pre-workout snack.
Working out on an empty stomach is safe, as long as you're practicing intermittent fasting safely and plan to have a post-workout meal after. It's a strategy athletes and lifters try to enhance fat adaptation and metabolic flexibility. However, fasted training isn't going to provide you with magical results! Studies show that fasted training doesn't show a huge difference in body composition in athletes that train fasted and those who had a meal or snack before. If working out fasted is something you prefer, then go for it! But if your performance is struggling then consider having a pre-workout meal hours before your workout, or if you're working out in the morning have a light snack!
So, what and when should you eat before a workout?
There are two options: 2-3 hours before your workout, or 30-60 minutes before. The foods you eat will depend on which option works better for you. Let's break down both...
- 2-3 hours before a workout: For those working out in the evening, it's best to have a good meal 2-4 hours before your workout. For most this will be lunch, so try to avoid ordering take-out and instead prep a meal that is filled with the appropriate amount of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. How much of each macronutrient you need depends on your goals, and other important factors, so if you haven't already calculate your macros! As an example, a healthy pre-workout meal will have some type of protein, like meat, chicken, or fish, a cup of rice (or other starch), and a portion of vegetables. For breakfast, you can have eggs, spinach, whole-grain toast or potatoes, or Greek yogurt topped with fruit and other healthy add-ons. Essentially, you want to focus on having enough proteins and carbs to have amino acids in the bloodstream to improve protein synthesis, and to fuel your training!
- 30-60 minutes before a workout: Many prefer to eat a smaller meal closer to their workout session, but the only issue with this is that it leaves less time for digestion. So, when it comes to having a pre-workout snack in a short time frame opt for a liquid, like a protein shake or smoothie! You'll get everything you need to fuel your body properly, but not to the point you're extremely full. As an example, you can do a scoop of your 373 Lab's Chocolate Cheesecake or Cold Brew Latte Whey Protein blended with a frozen banana, a tablespoon of nut butter, and unsweetened almond milk. For something on the fruitier side, try a scoop of 373 Lab Super Greens, frozen berries (or other fruits), 1/2 a cup of yogurt for protein, and use water or coconut water for excellent hydration.
Best pre-workout supplements
As long as you're eating whole foods that are nutrient-dense, you don't need workout supplements... however, supplements contain effective doses of performance-enhancing nutrients that help improve endurance and energy levels. If you need a boost in energy and training performance, consider taking the following pre-workout supplements...
- Pre-workout powder: Pre-workout is the most popular supplement to take before a workout due to it containing the stimulant caffeine, along with a mix of other performance-enhancing ingredients. Each pre-workout formula is unique to the brand, but common ingredients found in them are beta-alanine, caffeine, beetroot extract, betaine, and some even contain BCAAs and creatine. If you need a boost in energy and want to increase muscular endurance, power, and speed, look for a pre-workout with effective doses and avoid proprietary blends!
- Creatine: Creatine is naturally produced in the body, but there are benefits to taking it before a workout. Creatine is stored in the muscle cells to give us quick access to it during intense exercises like strength training and sprinting. This is why many lifters and athletes take creatine, specifically creatine monohydrate, as a pre-workout. Taking it beforehand helps the creatine make its way into your muscles to help your body refuel the ATP (adenosine triphosphate, a key energy store) supply faster. Thus reducing fatigue and enhancing performance by allowing lifters to get an extra 1-2 reps.
- Super Greens: Super greens powder might not sound like it would be a pre-workout supplement, but it can be a good replacement for those who prefer a natural boost in energy levels. Super greens contain a blend of fruits, veggies, grasses/algae, prebiotics, probiotics, and more to help boost your nutrient needs. This helps improve digestive health and gives your energy levels a natural boost. However, 373 Lab Super Greens contains an organic-certified combination of six adaptogenic mushrooms that help increase power and endurance by improving oxygen utilization and decreasing lactate, known as PeakO2. This natural blend of mushrooms helps lifters and athletes train longer and push through a few more reps. So, aside from helping boost immune and gut health, it helps improve endurance and performance too!
What to eat post-workout
Unlike pre-workout nutrition, which you can skip, you can't skip post-exercise nutrition! Eating after a workout is crucial because it helps replace the calories you used, replenish glycogen stores, and most importantly, helps prevent muscle breakdown. So, take your post-workout nutrition seriously - whether you're trying to build muscle or achieve weight loss!
Despite popular belief, you don't need to chug a protein shake right after you're done with your workout. Although protein powder is one of the best post-workout supplements, you shouldn't neglect food after training. The best nutrition after workouts is basically the same as before! Have a meal filled with real food, meaning have a serving of protein, simple carbs like white rice to help replenish glycogen stores, and vegetables.
However, if you're not hungry and would rather wait a few hours to have your next meal, then a protein shake will come in handy! You can simply drink it by mixing it with water or milk, or better yet (if you have time), add fruits like berries or a banana to help replenish your glycogen stores.
So, when should you time your post-workout meal or shake?
It depends on what you ate before your workout! If you train in a fasted state then it's crucial to have a post-workout meal as soon as you can. This will help ensure that you're giving your body the nutrients it greatly needs to prevent muscle breakdown. Those who had a small pre-workout snack or shake, try to get a meal in within 1-2 hours. Those who had a normal sized-meal can hold off for 2-4 hours after training to have a meal, but if you do this we highly recommend taking a post-workout supplement to help boost your recovery.
Best post-workout supplements
Just like with pre-workout supplements, you don't need a post-workout supplement to achieve your goals. As long as you're eating enough macronutrients before and after your workouts, you should be good. However, having a post-workout supplement can help boost your recovery and maximize your training effort. There are two post-workout supplements we recommend – protein powder and BCAAs.
Protein powder is the superior post-workout supplement because a good one, like whey protein, contains all the amino acids which are necessary for muscle repair and growth – including BCAAs! However, those following a plant-based diet, won't get the benefits of whey protein because most plant-based proteins aren't considered complete proteins, meaning they don't contain all essential amino acids. That's when BCAA's come in!
BCAA's promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown and soreness! A study that was done to see the effects of BCAAs on muscle soreness showed that the participants that were given a BCAA supplement rated lower muscle soreness levels (as much as 33% lower) than those given a placebo. So, if you don't like protein powder or just can't have it due to dietary restrictions, BCAA's should be your go-to supplement!
Take your pre and post-workout nutrition seriously
To maximize your hard work at the gym, follow our guidelines above! Avoid eating processed foods, and a bunch of unhealthy fats and carbs before and after your workouts. Stick to whole foods and calculate and track your macros so you know exactly how much of each macronutrient you should eat before and after your workout. Do this, and you'll be on the right track to achieving effective results!
What sets 373 Lab Supplements apart from the rest?
At 373 Lab we pride ourselves on creating supplements that will enhance your training performance and recovery by creating formula blends with high-quality ingredients. Our supplements are designed to help you achieve your fitness goals by giving you only the nutrients you need – no unnecessary fillers or additives!
Check out our collection of supplements and discover why they’re the best – Whey Protein Isolate, BCAA’s, Pre-Workout, and Super Greens.