What should I eat before and after my workouts?!

Lauren Papanos of @functional.fueling shares how to eat properly for muscle growth and hormone health before and after strength training:

Q: What’s the ideal way to eat before and after a workout, versus the rest of your meals?

A: Before and after a workout you want to maximize protein and quick carbohydrates (fruit, oatmeal, potato, toast) with minimal fiber and fat. While we NEED fat for healthy hormones and cycles, fat before a workout greatly delays the digestion of food and can prevent you from utilizing your meal as quick fuel for maximum performance. The way you eat in the second half of the day (if you workout in the morning) should look totally different from the first half around your workout, loading up your healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.

Q: Why do you want to avoid taking antioxidant supplements (like Vitamin C, Glutathione) and Omega-3s before a workout?

A: With resistance training, you want a complete acute inflammatory response so that the muscle can break down (and then repair) properly. Taking large doses of antioxidant supplements before or right after a workout can actually impair the adaptation you’re trying to get from the workout. Take these supplements as far away from your training session as possible, at a different point in the day.

Q: What are some pre-workout meal examples to properly fuel a workout? 

A: Options include oatmeal with protein powder, non-fat Greek yogurt with fruit, a sweet potato with a protein shake or egg whites, or gluten-free toast with egg whites. The key is to have carbohydrates and protein without much fat, which can slow digestion. 

Q: What should you eat after a strength training workout to properly recover? 

A: Have carbohydrates and protein again, but you can include some healthy fats now like eggs with yolks, avocado toast, or a smoothie with nut butters or seeds. Still avoid large doses of antioxidants from supplements. 

Q: How often should you eat protein when building muscle? 

A: Aim to eat around 30 grams of protein every 3-5 hours to maximize muscle protein synthesis. This usually equates to about 4 feedings per day. 

Q: How should your diet and meals differ on strength training days versus cardio days? 

A: Focus on more carbs and protein around your strength workouts. On cardio days, meals should be more balanced with carbs, protein and healthy fats. Still get protein every 3-5 hours. 

Q: What is an ideal weekly workout routine for hormonal health? 

A: 3 full body strength workouts plus 2-3 cardio/zone 2 workouts (this can mean a 30 minute walk, a hike, biking, treadmill). Separate strength and cardio by at least 6 hours if you’re doing them on the same day, but best is to simply alternate days. Effective options are lifting weights M/W/F and walking or jogging T/Th/Sat.

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