We've all heard that diet is important for good health, a strong immune system, and energy for and recovery from exercise. What about when you're eating? Does the timing of your meals have an effect on your performance and recovery? Long-held wisdom in the world of sports nutrition is that what you eat and when you eat have an effect on your training goals. Proper nutrition can help with: Enhance performance Reduce injuries Increase muscle power Improve reaction time, strength, and endurance Enhance recovery The exact composition of your meals in terms of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) varies from person to person because you must consider body type (ectomorph, endomorph, mesomorph), type of exercise (aerobic vs. strength), intensity of exercise, duration of exercise, and time between exercise sessions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when all of these factors are taken into account. Furthermore, most nutrient-timing recommendations are based on research done on various types of athletes (professional-level) in a variety of sports, including, but not limited to, cycling, swimming, running, and weight training. As a result, for most clients, these recommendations should be more of a guideline than a strict dogma. What to Eat Before Working Out The primary goal of eating before exercise is to provide your body with enough fuel to sustain your energy level throughout your workout, allowing you to meet your workout objectives. Carbohydrate-rich foods and fluids help to replenish glycogen stores, while protein can help to maintain muscle mass. A meal that contains a combination of these macronutrients is ideal. High-fat meals are generally not advised prior to a workout because fat slows digestion and makes most people feel sluggish. Hydration is one of the most important tools in your pre-workout arsenal. When you do not drink enough water (or decaf/herbal tea, coffee, milk, juice—yes, these all count) or eat enough fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated, your muscles fatigue much faster, your coordination suffers, and you are more likely to develop muscle cramps. Furthermore, your body will be unable to regulate its core temperature, which can result in overheating and exhaustion. Staying hydrated takes all day. Begin your day with 8-16 ounces of water and sip it frequently throughout the day. You should stay hydrated by drinking at least 32 ounces of water during your workout. Exercise that lasts more than an hour and/or takes place in high heat and humidity necessitates increased fluid intake as well as the possible addition of electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweat. When do you work out? Next, think about when you exercise during the day. Your meal-timing strategy will be influenced by whether you exercise first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day, or in the evening. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you won't have much time to eat and digest your food. Because liquids digest faster, a small smoothie could be a good pre-workout meal. If you find that any type of food bothers you, it may be best to avoid it entirely. In fact, some people believe that exercising while fasting helps them burn more body fat. It really comes down to personal preference. Take into account the type and duration of exercise that will be performed. You are more likely to experience glycogen depletion, hypoglycemia, and fatigue during an endurance (>60-minute) or high-intensity interval-training workout. Pre-workout meals are essential, and you should consider drinking a drink containing 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour during prolonged exercise. If you exercise later in the day, you can time your meals to ensure that you have enough fuel to perform well. The longer the time between your meal and exercise, the larger your meal can be. If you have an hour before your workout, a meal or snack containing 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight is appropriate. If you have two hours until your workout, consume 2 grams/kg of carbohydrate. Consider a meal with 3-4 grams/kg of carbohydrate three to four hours before your workout. Including 15-20 grams of protein in your pre-workout meal can help with blood sugar control, muscle mass maintenance or increase, and muscle damage during the workout. What to Eat After Working Out The goal of the post-workout meal is to aid in recovery, rehydration, refueling, muscle building, and future performance. When discussing your fuel requirements, many sports nutrition experts refer to the post-workout "anabolic window of opportunity." Following a workout, blood flow and insulin sensitivity increase, facilitating glucose uptake and glycogen resynthesis. In other words, the hour following exercise is when your body is most in need of nutrients, so eating the right meal during this time can kickstart refueling and tissue repair faster than waiting. Recent research suggests that this window of opportunity is much larger than previously thought, so gulping down a protein shake isn't necessary. Aim for 15-25 grams of protein (for tissue repair) and 1-2 grams/kg (of body weight) of carbohydrates per hour of glycogen-depleting exercise for a post-workout meal. To increase satiation, add 5-10 grams of fat. You don't have to worry about protein powder versus whole foods or carbohydrate type (low-glycemic vs. high-glycemic). The best post-workout meal is one that is well-balanced and contains a variety of real, whole foods as well as plenty of fluid. Should You Eat Before Going to Bed? This is yet another issue that has polarized the nutrition world. Some people believe that eating before bed causes your body to digest and store the food as body fat, resulting in weight gain. However, if you exercise in the evening, the nutrients in your post-workout meal will be directed toward glycogen synthesis and muscle repair. Regardless of the time of day or night, you must nourish the body after exercise in order to transition from a catabolic to anabolic state. In conclusion What and when you eat can have a significant impact on your performance and recovery. Balanced meals and fluids are essential for energy production, recovery, injury prevention, and proper growth. Meal composition and timing must be tailored to each individual based on gender, age, body type, and the type, intensity, duration, and frequency of activity. Making sure to consume meals that are macronutrient balanced and made up of real, whole foods is a great place to start.

Meal Timing for Performance and Recovery

We’ve all heard that diet is important for good health; a strong immune system; and energy for and recovery from exercise. What about when you’re eating? Does the timing of your meals affect your performance and recovery? Long-held wisdom in the world of sports nutrition is that what you eat and when you eat have …

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