One of the commonly asked questions is whether to eat protein before or after a workout. Protein is one of the most essential foods for building bigger and stronger muscles. While your pre- and post-workout nutritional needs determine your overall fitness, timing should be factored in. If you’ve set a fitness goal that you want to see come to fruition, you must have heard or read about when to eat proteins. It may come as a surprise, but there is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your body and when you ate your last meal before hitting the gym.
Knowing What to Eat Is Important
According to Mona Cabrera, M.S., R.D., “If you prefer your protein shake before your workout versus after, that will be just as beneficial to you.” She adds, “If you are trying to gain muscle and strength, drinking your protein shake before or after doesn’t matter like it was once believed.
In a 2017 study published on PeerJ on the effects of pre- and post-workout protein intake on the strength and size of your muscles and body composition, it was concluded that both pre- and post-workout protein consumption produced similar results.
Nutritionists recommend eating quality carbs, lean protein, fluids, and heart-healthy fats before exercising to get energized and enable your body to endure the exercise. Carbohydrates like cereals, pasta, rice, bread, vegetables, and fruits are required by your muscles. So do protein, which not only nourishes your blood cells but also brings nutrients and oxygen to your muscles.
Healthy Pre-Workout Snacks
It’s crucial to consume ‘real food first’ before your workouts. Preferably, go for a small snack that contains all three macronutrients, namely, carbs, protein, and a little fat. It’s common for people to grab a banana believing that it’s rich in carbs and will fuel the body. However, eating a banana alone may not be the best idea since it may cause your blood sugar to rise and crash when working out. In turn, this will affect your energy levels. That’s why you should include some protein and a little fat in your pre-workout diet. As a general rule, it’s best not to eat immediately before a workout because your stomach is still trying to digest the food. Ideally, you should fuel your body at least one to four hours before your workout, depending on your body’s tolerance to food. A few good options that you can try include:
- One banana (for carbs) and nut butter (for protein and healthy fat).
- Cheese (a supply of protein and healthy fat) with a piece of fruit for its carbs.
- A slice of whole-grain toast (carbs), spread with peanut butter (protein and healthy fat).
A glass of protein shake will give you the boost you need to help with the muscle-building process during your workout. It’s, especially, useful in instances when you haven’t eaten anything in three to four hours. However, if you have a sensitive stomach that’s not capable of digesting protein well, it’s best not to consume it before hitting the gym. You may feel too full, or the protein may cause an upset stomach, especially if you’re engaging in some jumping.
Healthy Post-Workout Snacks
After a workout, your muscles need repair and replenishing. That’s why you need protein for muscle repair and carbs to replenish your glycogen stores. When you eat carbs, your body will readily use them to replenishing all that it lost during the workout, rather than store them as fat. In other words, carbs after a workout can help you with your weight loss efforts. But, don’t just go with any carbs. Choose starchy vegetables and whole grains, paired with lean protein. Here are some ideas that you can try.
- Adjust the portions to suit your hunger levels.
- Protein shake combined with whey protein.
- Hard-boiled eggs paired with fruits.
- Sweet potato topped with cottage cheese.
- A bowl of quinoa combined with greens and chicken.
The advantage of consuming protein after a workout is that you allow your body to start muscle recovery. Experts recommend eating protein 30 minutes to one-hour after a workout. Protein will help initiate the repair and rebuilding of muscle tissues that were broken down during the workout. Protein shakes are recommended since they are easy to digest compared to full-blown meals, which you may not be able to stomach after a HIIT.
Should I Eat Protein Before or After My Workouts?
Don’t go with the common notion that if you don’t ramp up on protein 30 minutes before a workout, you won’t notice any gains. Our bodies react differently to exercise and food. The quicker you learn what works best for your body, the sooner you’ll be on your way to reaching your fitness goals. If you are still confused, it’s advisable to have some protein before and after your workouts. However, don’t be too rigid about the timing. Listen to your body and give it what it wants, when it wants.
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