Fuel Up: Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition for Faster Results


At SYNRGY Health & Fitness, we chose our name for a reason. Health is about synergy and achieving balance between exercise, nutrition and recovery to reach your fitness goals.

That said, exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand to make the body change. The cliché is that “you can’t out-train a bad diet,” and it’s sad but true. Research shows that exercise alone does little for weight loss, especially without a solid nutrition plan. More importantly, research also shows that diet alone can lead to drastic weight loss with virtually no exercise. As someone who loves to work out and loves helping others work out, it’s tough for me to say, but what you eat is actually much more important than what you do in the gym.

What you eat before and after exercise can do wonders to move you toward your goals. Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle or get better at a sport, you need to fuel your body with the right nutrients to maximize your workouts.

Calories Matter

First and foremost, total caloric intake is the number one factor for losing or gaining weight. Eat more calories than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Burn more than you eat, you’ll lose weight. Simple, right? In that case, it’s best to eat most of your calories before and after your workouts.

Eat enough calories before your workout to keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent that “crashing” feeling, but don’t eat so much that you upset your stomach. During exercise, the body diverts blood away from the intestines to the working muscles, so training after a big meal can make your stomach queasy. Eat a small, balanced meal 1-2 hours before exercise to fuel up and avoid an emergency trip to the bathroom.

After your workout, your body is desperate for calories and nutrients to repair muscles and top off energy stores. That’s not permission to crush cake and ice cream after a tough workout, but you have a little more freedom with how much you eat after exercise, so up the calories for 1-2 hours after working out.

Choose Your Fuel

What type of food you eat before and after your workout makes a huge difference in performance and recovery. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats each “burn” differently and work best for certain types of exercise.

The human body is pretty smart. When you eat a certain type of nutrient, the body suddenly makes that nutrient more available to provide energy. For example, if you eat a ton of carbs – say a huge bowl of pasta – before running a marathon, your body will switch to burning lots of carbs because they’re readily available.

How hard you work out determines what type of fuel you need. Simply, the harder you train, the more carbs you need. A heavy weightlifting session or an up-tempo spin class burns mostly carbs, while a leisurely walk or relaxed yoga class burns mostly fat.

If gaining muscle and lifting heavy weights are high priority, eat plenty of carbs before your workout. Athletes who need to sprint, jump, throw and tackle should load up on carbs too. A banana, a cup of oatmeal or a medium sweet potato are solid choices. Eat your pre-workout carbs with a serving of protein or fat for sustained energy, and slam some faster-digesting carbs (berries, white potatoes, white rice, etc.) with protein after your workout to replenish energy stores and build new muscle.

It’s worth repeating: what you eat is what you burn, so eating fat prior to a low-intensity, long-duration workout like jogging or biking can speed up the fat-burning process. Grab a few handfuls of almonds, add avocado and olive oil to a salad or spoon yourself some full-fat Greek yogurt for steady energy. But don’t eat fat post-workout – it slows down protein synthesis and delays the delivery of healing nutrients to your muscles.

Protein, on the other hand, is a pretty lousy fuel for exercise. It’s “expensive” to digest, meaning it takes a lot of energy to process and detracts from the energy you need to exercise. A small amount of protein pre-workout can stave off hunger and help carbs digest slowly for sustained energy, but protein is best saved for post-workout to help rebuild muscle. SYNRGY offers a ton of awesome protein shakes at the front desk that have the right nutrients to recover from your workout, so check them out next time you stop in!

Fuel the Fire

Don’t let your hard work in the gym go to waste. Dial in your nutrition to maximize your results and reach your goals even faster. If you have any questions about pre- or post-workout nutrition, leave a comment below or ask one of our trainers. We’re here to help!

Train On Purpose

– Tony


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