We understand that the food we eat plays a vital role in our health and fitness outcomes. To achieve good results, we need to consume high-quality food. However, what some people may not realize is that when you eat is almost as important as what you eat!
Before We Begin
Before focusing on when you eat, make sure you’re eating the right foods in the right amounts. This means not skipping meals and avoiding excessive eating on weekends. Find a meal plan that balances your nutrients and is sustainable. After you’ve got this in place, then you can consider when to time your nutrients.
Meal Timing For Maximum Performance
Meal timing ideas come from the world of sports. Studies have looked at when to eat for the best exercise performance. The basic idea is to have carbs before and after your workout. This gives you energy for your training and helps your muscles recover. But remember, just timing your meals won’t make you lose fat. You also need to eat fewer calories than you burn each day to lose weight. So, if you’re exercising to lose weight, follow the advice below and eat a bit less each day, like 250-500 calories fewer than what you need.
What to Eat Before a Workout
The goal of eating before a workout is to give your body the energy it needs for your training session. About 90 minutes before you start, have a meal with both protein and carbs. This will fill up your muscles’ energy stores and protect your muscle mass during the workout. Avoid fatty foods before exercising because they’re slow to digest and can make you feel tired. Instead, have a quick carb snack like a banana 20 minutes before you begin. Some people use pre-workout drinks to boost energy and focus during their workout, but they’re not as important as timing your regular meals. So, to sum it up:
- 90 minutes before the workout, eat a meal with half protein and half carbs (like chicken and sweet potato).
- 20 minutes before the workout, have a fast-acting carb (like a banana).
While you’re working out, your body uses the food you ate 90 minutes before. It doesn’t need extra calories during your exercise, but it does need water to stay hydrated. This keeps your muscle cells full and replaces the water lost through sweating.
When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, which are important for your muscles to function. You should drink water with added electrolytes to replace these lost electrolytes as you work out.
After your workout, your body has used up its main energy source called glycogen. To replenish this energy, you should eat carbohydrates. Carbs you consume after a tough workout go straight into your muscle cells to replace the lost glycogen.
If you crave something sweet, having a small portion of a sugary snack within an hour after your workout is okay. This could be a small blueberry muffin or a few pieces of chocolate.
Eating a sweet treat right after exercising might help you stick to your diet, but make sure to keep the portion small!
You also need protein after your workout to repair the muscles that got worked during your session. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein in the hour after your workout. You can get this from real food or a protein powder.
Night Time Nutrition
The idea of eating before bedtime is debated. Research supports both sides. If you have acid reflux, avoid eating three hours before bed. Having a full meal before bedtime can stimulate digestion and make it hard to fall asleep.
While eating a big meal before bed might lead to weight gain, there’s no evidence that a healthy, small snack will make you gain weight. In fact, it can help you sleep better. Instead of sugary desserts, choose a snack with protein and fiber. A small bowl with diced cheese, apple slices, and walnuts is a good option.