Maximizing your results starts with the food, protein, and supplement, choices you make around your workouts.
The harder you train in the gym or on the field, the more important it becomes to properly fuel your body with athlete-relevant nutrition throughout the day. The food choices you make at each meal will significantly influence how strong you are, how well you perform, and how quickly you recover. Make poor food choices and you’ll lose lean muscle mass, gain body fat, and grow weaker every day. That simple.
No two meals may be as important as the one just before you workout, and the one post-workout. Choose the wrong foods and watch your performance decline. So what constitutes the right shake vs. the wrong one?
The right pre-workout shake promotes high energy levels during the session and helps kick-start the recovery process. Many don’t realize that what you eat prior before training will be digested during and after your workout, meaning these nutrients will factor greatly into your recovery.
Your post-workout shake, on the other hand, is what will properly steer recovery, as it’ll work to get your muscles the nutrients they need to immediately store them right into the muscle cells.
Let’s then have a look at the main factors to note when looking to create the perfect pre and post workout concoctions.
Your Pre-Workout Shake
Some people choose to have solid food for this meal rather than having a shake, and that’s entirely okay, provided it doesn’t leave you with an upset stomach.This usually depends on how quickly you workout after having your meal, as the less time you have, the more likely you are to get sick.
Whatever you decide (meal or shake),make sure this ‘meal’ has as little fat as possible. Fat will slow down your digestion, leaving you sluggish during your session. Instead, focus on a high quality protein source along with some complex carbohydrates.
If you’re having your shake immediately prior to your workout (such as first thing in the morning), add some simple sugars, like dextrose or fructose from fruit, to increase your blood sugar level quickly. These simple sugars when added to the protein source will leave you feeling full of energy. Now don’t go overboard as a high dosage (think over 50 g) will cause a blood sugar crash halfway through the workout.
Instead of going with only simple carbs, use a mixture of complex and simple carbs to compliment your protein source. Good pre-workout meal options include a chicken breast with sweet potatoes, egg whites with oatmeal and fruit, or a whey protein shake like BSN’s Syntha-6 that premixes the carbohydrates and protein needed to recover properly.
Your Post-Workout Shake
Once you’ve got your pre-workout shake figured out, it’s time to consider your post-workout shake. Immediately after working out, to maximize your results, it’s vital to get the right nutrients and sufficient calories. This is the one point in the day you’re least likely to store body fat, so don’t try and go too low with your calorie intake in an effort to conserve.
It’s smarter to go with a shake rather than a whole meal post-workout as the shake will reach the muscle cells slightly quicker. In addition, many people don’t feel like eating a full meal after a workout. A shake then helps you get the nutrients you need, without feeling nauseous afterward.
Just like the pre-workout period, aim to consume both proteins and carbs, while keeping fat out of the picture. A whey isolate protein powder is going to be your best bet as it’s designed to break down, and get absorbed, rapidly.
Pair that protein powder with a fast absorbing form of simple carbohydrates, or simply pick up a product like Optimum Nutrition’s 2:1:1 Recovery that has the two premixed already. At this point you want a rapid blood sugar spike as it will cause the release of insulin into the body, which will then quickly suck up the amino acids and glucose into the muscle cells.
Plan to follow this post-workout shake about an hour later with a solid meal containing slow digesting carbohydrates to help offset any blood sugar low that you may experience. Good options for your post-workout carbohydrate here include dextrose (the fastest form), maltodextrin, waxy maze, white rice, white bread, sugary cereals, or bagels with jelly if your calorie requirements are higher. These will all quickly get into the blood stream where they’re needed, and start supplying your muscles with glucose for muscle glycogen storage.
From the supplement perspective, consider adding creatine (if you didn’t add it pre-workout), branched chain amino acids for extra muscle recovery support, and glutamine. These will all support a healthier overall recovery, and ensure you’re left feeling your best.
Pre and post workout meal protocols can be confusing as there’s a lot of information on both floating around. Be sure not to overlook these two critical meals, adhere to the foods and supplements suggested above, and watch how much your progress improves.
Not sure what products to buy? Here are the best all-in-one post-workout protein shakes from 1R: