How to Optimize Your Workout Meal to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

workout meal

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are always looking for ways to build stamina, endurance, and overall sports performance to achieve their fitness goals. While working out is essential for increasing muscle mass, fueling the body with proper nutrition also plays a crucial role in maintaining health. The right nutrition guidance helps to enrich your body with the clean energy that is needed to engage in grueling workouts. Optimal nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout.

This article gives you an insight into what to eat before and after a workout.

Before Exercise

What, when, and how much you eat before you exercise affects your performance, strength, and endurance. It is necessary to have a nutritious meal or snack before engaging in strenuous physical activities as it affects both the quality of your workout and the post-exercise recovery.

However, you need to strategize what you eat and how long before the exercise you eat to prevent becoming hypoglycemic and fatigued.

What are the Best Pre-workout Foods?

Sports nutritionists and physiologists recommend following diets with a relatively high percentage of energy from carbohydrates (75 percent), no more than 25 percent from protein, and a low amount of energy from fat.

Numerous studies have concluded that consuming carbohydrates before exercising results in improved performance compared to exercising on an empty stomach.

When it comes to increasing endurance and performance for exercise, carbohydrates play a crucial role as carbohydrate stores (muscle and liver glycogen) are limited. They are the body’s primary source of energy, the depletion of which results in fatigue and reduced performance, which is why it is advisable to ensure that your pre-exercise glycogen stores are high.

Pre-workout Snacks

Pre-workout snacks, such as the following, should be consumed one to two hours before exercising.

  • Fresh fruits
  • Dried apricots, dates, and raisins
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt
  • Shakes
  • Energy or protein bars
  • Diluted fruit juices

After Exercise

workout meal

A post-workout meal is just as important as a pre-workout meal, and the best time to refuel is shortly afterward.

When you are engaged in physical activity, your muscles use up their glycogen, which results in them becoming partially or completed depleted. Post-exercise, your body is in the ‘recovery phase’ in which it depletes its glycogen stores, and repairs and regrows the damaged muscle proteins.

Research has shown that the replenishment is most rapid in the first couple of hours after a workout and is followed by a relatively slow yet higher than the normal rate in the next four hours. It is advisable to consume carbohydrates during this ‘window’ to speed up glycogen recovery.

What are the Best Post-workout Foods?

The best post-workout foods have a combination of protein and carbohydrate in a 1:4 ratio as this is more effective in promoting glycogen recovery and muscle protein synthesis and recovery. Carbohydrates should essentially be the foundation of your post-workout meal, with protein and healthy fats supporting your recovery.

Moreover, the combination of carbohydrates and a protein meal or drink is far more effective than a carbohydrate-only meal or drink. This combination speeds recovery and reduces post-exercise muscle damage and muscle soreness, which leads to improved performance and endurance.

Post-workout Snacks

Post-workout snacks are to be eaten within two hours of exercising. Consider these options:

  • One or two portions of fresh fruit with a cup of milk
  • One or two cups of yogurt
  • A homemade smoothie or milkshake
  • A sports or protein bar
  • A bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk
  • A handful of dried fruits and nuts
  • A sandwich/wrap with a filling of lean protein (chicken, cottage cheese, peanut butter, etc.)

The simplest way to plan your daily food intake is to divide your day into three parts: pre-exercise, post-exercise, and during exercise (if you engage in strenuous exercise for more than 60 minutes). This can help you determine how much and what type of carbohydrates to consume to optimize your performance and recovery.

Written by Maham Ahmed