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Fuelling Your Fitness Journey: The importance of Pre and Post-Workout Nutrition

In the fast-paced world of fitness, it's not uncommon for people to overlook the crucial role that proper nutrition plays in their training routines. I too have fallen into the trap of neglecting my pre and post-training meals, only to be reminded of their importance through my recent studies, particularly concerning the unique needs of female bodies. Renowned Exercise Physiologist and Nutrition Scientist Dr. Stacy Sims succinctly captures the essence of this practice stating "If the goal of your training is to get fitter, faster, improve your health or decrease your body composition then timing your nutrient intake around training sessions is key." (Sims 2023)

The Pre-Workout Boost

Picture this: it's 6 am and you're gearing up for a morning training session. The common dilemma many face is whether to eat or not before such an early workout. Consuming a ‘meal’ might not be practical, but a small snack can work wonders. Even a tiny intake, like half a banana and a couple of almonds can trigger your body to burn fuel efficiently during your session, automatically making it a more efficient and worth-while session.

Obviously if you train later in the day, it's far easier to get in the required nutrition but timing-wise research suggests we want to ensure we have eaten within 3 hours of a session with a top up snack included within 30 minutes of commencing.

If we are talking early in the morning, aim for ½ banana and a couple of almonds, a piece of toast, a banana or strawberries on toast, ½ an energy bar a loaded coffee which contains coffee with milk/ mylk, protein powder and/ or collagen. Or if that all still sounds too much, try a milk coffee and a piece of fruit.

If you have a later training time and want to really drill down to nailing your pre-workout nutrition, Dr Sims suggests consuming 15g of protein before a resistance training session or 15g of protein and 30g of carbohydrates for a cardio session. Foods like Greek yogurt, chicken, lentils, or a fruit and nut butter sandwich fit the bill, providing the necessary energy without overwhelming your stomach. It's really a matter of trial and error to see what works for you and getting familiar with reading the protein content on the label!

Mastering the Post-Workout Recovery

Post-training nutrition is equally vital. Consuming a balanced meal or a protein and carb-containing snack within 30-45 minutes after your workout aids in recovery, promotes lean muscle mass development, and enhances muscle protein synthesis (MPS is how the body ultimately maintains and builds muscle). If the body stays in a catabolic state post training we will see too much tissue breakdown and a decreased rate of repair, when in actual fact we want optimal recovery, lean tissue growth and increased growth hormone response to maximize muscle protein synthesis.

If your fuelling window post-workout fits in with meal time - opt for exactly that. A meal containing protein, carbohydrates and fats. If a snack on-the-go works better then opt for a protein shake and some fruit

Some great post-workout options include:

  • A salad with protein and avocado

  • Avocado and eggs on toast

  • Greek yoghurt with fruit or muesli are great options.

  • Fruit and nut butter sandwich

  • Overnight oats with protein powder

  • Fruit and protein smoothie

  • Omelette and wholegrain toast

Tailoring Nutrition to Your Body and Training

Understanding your body's needs is vital and not surprisingly requirements vary between a male and female body. For men, adapting these strategies will get you great results but you will also ‘get away with’ skipping meals, and training fasted. For the female body, particularly as we get closer to the peri-menopause years, it doesn’t seem to be so simple. Incorrect fuelling can cause endocrine disruption, as does stress, so when we combine these two ‘stressors’ we see a constant cycle of failing to get desired results. Things we regularly hear as trainers, particularly in women over 35 years of age, are why can't I lose my belly fat or that annoying 5kg just wont shift or things are just not the same as when I was .... It's so often a case that active women are UNDER fuelling, particularly in the case of consuming too little protein and therefore not getting the results they are working so hard to achieve. If you still feel like you need to be aiming for a calorie deficit in order to drop body fat, the best suggestion is to drop an evening or afternoon snack, as long as it is not either side of your training session.

In conclusion

Your journey to a healthier, fitter you should be supported by well-timed, balanced nutrition. By fuelling your body appropriately before, during, and after workouts, you not only optimize your performance but also support your overall health and well-being. Remember, your body is a finely tuned machine; give it the right fuel, and it will take you to new heights in your fitness endeavours.

Additional notes to assist:

15g of protein might look like:

  • 60 gms of chicken, beef or pork

  • ¾ cup Greek yoghurt

  • 50gm can tuna

  • 1 cup cooked lentils, chickpeas, tofu, edamame, black beans, kidney beans or pinto beans

  • ½ cup tempeh

  • 2 cups quinoa

  • 85gm Chia seeds

  • 4 tbsp almond butter

I would love to hear your take on this information and any personal experiences. Again, this blog is a summary of my reading, research and also content learnt through Dr Stacy Sims ‘Women are Not Small Men’ 2023 study cohort. Personally, since becoming very consistent with my pre and post-training nutrition, I have noticed a big increase in my recovery rate as well as feelings of hunger and satiety. After becoming a Mum I fell into the spiral of training fasted, skipping meals and neglecting my protein and collagen needs. Subsequently my appetite significantly changed and it's nice to have it feel more back in check again! If you read my collagen blog note that I am still taking my collagen daily and alternate between Vital Proteins and doTERRAs metaPWR collagen blend if I need a brilliant energy boost!

References used:

- Sims, S. (2023). Women are Not Small Men Accredited Course.

- Sims, S. (2022a). Next Level.

- Sims, S. (2022b). Female Athletes Need Carbs.

- West D.W.D., Burd N.A., Churchward-Venne T.A., Camera D.M., Mitchell C.J., Baker S.K., Hawley J.A., Coffey V.G., and Phillips S.M. Sex-based comparisons of myofibrillar protein synthesis after resistance exercise in the fed state. J Applied Physiol 2012 112:11, 1805-1813.

- Stannard, S. R., Buckley, A. J., Edge, J. A., & Thompson, M. W. (2010). Adaptations to skeletal muscle with endurance exercise training in the acutely fed versus overnight-fasted state. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 13(4), 465–469.

- Alexis A. Pihoker, Austin M. Peterjohn, Eric T. Trexler, Katie R. Hirsch, Malia N.M. Blue, Kara C. Anderson, Eric D. Ryan, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, The effects of nutrient timing on

training adaptations in resistance-trained females, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 22, Issue 4, 2019.


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