At the time of writing this article, I have been into physical training in various capacities for over 12 years. I have been seeking information about training, nutrition and other aspects of my own physical development for just as long. Since you are on the internet, you probably figured out a huge amount of information is available to you, some of it is good, some of it is not so good. Let me help you strip it all down to basics and save you time, money and frustration.
Keep it simple
Let me start with a fact what I hate over complications. Glamour fitness magazines offering you an exotic pre-workout meal for every day. This is nothing but English majors who didn't find a decent job wasting space in the magazine since they are getting paid by the word count. Are you going to make those recipes which contain half of the ingredients you never heard about? Doubt it. After all, you probably got a job to get to, kids to take care of and bills to pay, not search the internet for the best source of unicorn dandruff and ground dragon tooth to make "the ultimate pre-workout meal which will help you destroy your workout!"
Main principles of pre-workout and post-workout meals
Remember the main principles while designing your meal plan and keep it as simple as possible. You need to understand the following:
- A pre-workout meal must fuel your workout.
- A post-workout meal must fuel your recovery
That is it. Simple.
The main fuel for the workout is carbohydrates. However, it is always a good idea to keep the balance of all key nutrients in a pre-workout meal. The main fuel for muscle building after training is protein, but again it is a good idea to keep a balanced post-workout meal with all of the essential nutrients. Carbs are essential and required for recovery and muscle glycogen replacement. Oh, and guess what? Fats are necessary for a number of body functions as well.
Let me emphasize the point again, you need each and every nutrient in order to balance your training capacity, post-workout recovery, and life in general. Don’t fall into the fad diets which propose throwing a particular nutrient away. Those might be effective in the short run, but you will have to return back to the balanced diet eventually.
Knowing this, you are more than capable to design your own pre-workout and post-workout meals. You don't need any step-by-step instructions or $50 dollar consultations with a personal trainer. You know what will happen if you will not follow my meal blueprint exactly? Nothing. Using the principles outlined above you will test a few options for the pre-workout and post-workout meals and you will find the optimum solution for yourself.
I will give you a few examples of the meals I had, feel free to use/modify/change/adjust your meals as you see fit.
My pre-workout meal is a simple sandwich which consists of two slices of bread, natural butter (avoid margarine at all costs), peanut butter and honey. This is a light meal in the sense that it will not overload your stomach, but it is a very calorie dense. Think 700 calories or so, depending on how much butter, honey, and peanut butter you will put in. Feel free to cut out stuff if this is too many calories.
The main point this meal is to give me the energy to complete a workout and not to make me sick exercising with a full stomach. Even a small meal like this is better to eat like an hour or so before a workout. I have gone to the gym more than once right after the meal, sometimes even a heavy one, not the best experience to be honest.
My post-workout meal. Two examples are spring rolls and rice with meat and vegetables. Both meals are nutrient dense, but not very caloric relative to the volume of food which helps feel full which is beneficial if you are trying to burn some fat. At this particular day, I ate spring rolls right after the workout and later ate rice with meat, eggs, and vegetables.
You might notice that those two examples are moderate in protein, so I drank a protein shake right after the workout to make sure I am not lacking in the protein department when it comes to nutrients.
Remember, those are nothing but examples. Feel free to eat oats with condensed milk as a pre-workout meal and eat steak with salad and potatoes as a post-workout meal.
Adjust your pre-workout and post-workout meal to your diet and training
An important consideration is to adjust pre-workout and post-workout meals to your mode of training. If you are an Intermittent Fasting bro or gal, make sure you arrange your meals around your feeding window. If you are counting calories, make sure to calculate how much food you put into you. If you are an infantry soldier preparing for deployment, unless you are overweight, you might want to make sure you eat in a serious calorie surplus since you will burn through a lot of those calories during your training and a little bit extra fat you will gain is going to melt off of you during your upcoming task. The key point is to use common sense and make your meals around your specific training and eating regiments.
Fuel your workout, fuel your recovery and build the best version of yourself you can.