Importance of Meal Timing. Best Pre and Post Workout Meals?
It’s almost time to workout. You scrounge the kitchen to see what would give you the most energy for your gym session.
Maybe you’re looking to find food that isn’t going to make you feel like you’re going to fall asleep on the bench. Maybe you’re trying to decide how many minutes before you go to the gym should you eat your pre-workout meal.
Or maybe you are hurrying home to “get your 30 grams of protein in before your anabolic window closes”
This post is going to dive into the best pre and post workout meals. Or do these meals really even matter that much when it comes to muscle gain and/or fat loss?
When I first started to workout, I was told by others that it was crucial to consume a shit ton of carbs and protein immediately after a workout because that was the window in which muscle gain would occur.
People think that if you don’t get your protein in within 30 minutes of training, you will begin to lose muscle. Science has proven that it is NOT necessary to load up on protein and carbs IMMEDIATELY after your workout.
The bottom line of this post is, what you eat before or after a workout is MUCH less important than hitting your overall caloric and macronutrient goals for the day.
Time and time again, you see online from people all across the internet suggesting the consumption of carbs after exercise. Now while ingesting carbs after is workout is obviously fine to do and carbs ARE essential for muscle growth, our bodies don’t need as much carbs as we think they do.
When I first started working out, I thought that my body needed a rush of insulin in order to transform my digested carbs into well-earned muscle.
In my own mind, this meant that I needed sugar. Because insulin = sugar. So regardless of whether I was feeling hungry or not, I would make sure to ingest some form of “quick carbohydrates” such as candy, soda, or a sugary cereal. I used to then follow this up with any protein I could find.
I have also seen it and heard it countless times where having a pre workout meal consisting of a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats is the best and only way to reach your fitness goals.
When it comes to gaining weight and muscle, I would definitely recommend eating a small meal before training.
BUT, if you are looking to lose some weight and get shredded, I HIGHLY recommend training without eating ANYTHING beforehand. This is called fasted training and it has done wonders for my clients and I. Fasted training allows you to eat much more later on in the day which helps you stay within your macro intake for the day.
Obviously if you are working out late into the afternoon I would recommend eating something beforehand. But many of us who like to train in the morning or shortly upon waking up, the only thing you need to ingest in order to preserve muscle growth is 10 grams of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids).
I kid you not, many bodybuilders are beginning to eat junk foods such as donuts as a preworkout because it has an even balance of carbs to fats in it (more on this later).
The New Science Based Rules of Pre and Post Workout Meals
A major problem with the “post workout meal” is that we look at this meal as its own sort of entity. People like to eat as much as possible “post workout” with no regards to what they ate before training or what they will be eating later on that day. Because of this reason, many people aren’t hitting their fitness goals because they don’t know how much they should or should not be eating. Rather, they are only mainly focused on their post workout meal.
Science has now proven time and time again that the consumption of carbohydrates and proteins does not run on short term. Meaning, you DO NOT have to eat tons of carbs and protein immediately after your workout.
Remember, it is more important to consume enough protein, carbs, and fats THROUGHOUT THE DAY rather than immediately after your workout.
Key takeaway: Rather than focusing on eating as much possible food immediately after your workout, focus on consuming enough carbs, proteins, and fats throughout the day in order to hit your macronutrient goals.
What Should My Pre Workout Meal Consist Of?
This depends entirely on your fitness goals. It’s important to listen to your body and assess the situation before training.
If you are looking to lose weight, maintain muscle and become shredded, I strongly urge you to ingest 10 grams of branched chain amino acids before your workout. What this does is it ensures that you preserve your muscles while you are training in a fasted state (meaning without having anything in your stomach yet). I recommend this for people trying to cut weight because it allows you to eat more later on in the day which reduces your OVERALL calorie intake. Remember, if you want to lose weight and be shredded you have to be at a CALORIC DEFICIT. This means your body is burning more calories than you are taking in.
If you are looking to gain weight, build muscle, and bulk up, I recommend eating a balanced meal consisting of around 30 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and around 15 grams of fat. You can even get away with only a few grams of protein pre workout. (carbs and fats are the main part). By doing this, your body is going to have more umph during your workout. And, with the added calories you will build more muscle. Remember, in order to GAIN WEIGHT you have to be at a CALORIC SURPLUS. This means your body is taking IN more calories than it’s burning.
So a quick recap about pre workout meals. The timing of your meal is all about setting up your calories in a way so that you are eating either MORE or LESS. If you are looking to lose weight, simply consume 10 grams of BCAA’s before training because this allows you to eat less than your body needs throughout the day. If you are looking to gain weight, eat a small meal consisting of a proteins, fats, and carbs because this will give you a chance to take in MORE calories for the day.
It’s simple really. If you wanna lose weight, eat less. If you want to gain weight, eat more. And by training without eating a real meal, you can eat more later on which will help you stay on track with eating at a calorie deficit.
What Should I Be Eating Post Workout?
This is extremely simple and people are over-complicating their diets post workout. Once again it boils down to two separate forms of post workout meals. One meal for those who want to gain weight and a meal for those looking to lose weight.
By following my philosophy, your post workout meal should consist of whatever is needed in order to fit your macronutrient intake.
The importance of ingesting post-workout protein and carbohydrates has been debunked by research.
It is now known that you can eat carbohydrates and protein at any time of the day with minimal difference in terms of muscle gain. You no longer need to ingest all your protein and carbs right after your workout.
I’ve been utilizing Greg O’Gallagher’s Cookbook. I only recommend it because it has simple ass meals you can make that are not only pretty tasty, but he specifically tells you what the macronutrients are. This is great because you can gauge what you can eat pre or post workout.
TO SUM IT ALL UP:
- What you eat pre or post workout is much less important that meeting your overall caloric and macronutrient intake for the day.
- Your pre workout should depend on your fitness goals.
- If you’re looking to lose weight, ingest 10 grams of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) before training. (This is also called fasted training)
- If you’re looking to gain weight, eat a meal consisting of an even amount of protein, fats, and carbs. (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on multi-grain bread would suffice)
- Your post workout meal should consist of proteins, fats, and carbs depending on how much calories left you have for the day.
- There is no best pre and post workout meals.
- All that matters is that you eat enough to hit your macro goals each and every day.
- If you are in a caloric deficit (trying to lose weight), train in the morning, take 10grams of BCAA’s before training, and try to hold off on your first meal until later in the afternoon.
- If you are in a caloric surplus (trying to gain weight), eat a small meal before working out. Assess how much carbs and fats you’re body can ingest without feeling lethargic in the gym.
- You MUST BUY A SCALE if you are trying to reach your goals. You simply cannot guess how much protein, fats, and carbs you’re taking in without one.
Again, there have been so much “broscience” going on around telling you to take in 30 grams of protein and carbohydrates every three hours to build muscle. And that you have to eat a HUGE post workout meal if you want to gain any sort of muscle at all.
This is the year 2015 and science has proven that most of this is bullshit.
Hit your macros goals for the day. Assess your body and energy levels and base your “best pre and post workout meals” that way. There’s no one best pre or post workout meal and it’s going to be different for everyone.