Workout Nutrition

Pre, Intra & Post- workout nutrition plays a small part of overall nutritional intake yet contributes a lot to your performance during a training session.

Remember that the perfect intra workout nutritional regiment cannot overcome a bad diet. Don’t focus on perfecting this aspect of nutrition whilst only sustaining life on Big Macs and Coors Lights. This is like worrying about what type of rear view mirror you’ll need when you haven’t yet built the engine. Intra workout nutrition is just another piece of the puzzle that goes into a solid nutritional plan.

There are a couple of things to consider when thinking about how you’ll plan.

  • Eating window
  • Macronutrient composition
  • When are you training?
  • How will your schedule accommodate nutrition?
  • How workout nutrition affects your eating for the rest of the day
  • Personal preferences

Eating Windows

Pre-workout occurs 30 mins – three hours before a workout. Depending on what you decide to eat will dictate how closely to the workout you can eat. I would find it hard to workout right after eating 12 pancakes and bacon. However, I’ll find it a lot easier to workout after drinking a shake of whey protein & dextrose.

Intra-workout is from when you start warming up to when you finish cooling down. This should consist mainly of simple carbohydrates that are easily converted to glycogen, some electrolytes to balance the body and the addition of some BCAA’s won’t hurt. Ideally, you finish the last sip just as you start the last rep.

Post-workout nutrition is what you are able to consume immediately after a workout. The concept of the post working nutrition window is a bit over blown, since most individuals will actually experience an increase in nutrient absorption and tissue repair for up to 48 hours for novices and 24 hours for those with experience. The one hour post workout window will still have an effect on the recovery, but is simply another small piece of the recovery puzzle. Ignoring it won’t hinder your results a lot and getting it perfect won’t result in drastic changes. This should consist again of a simple carbohydrate and fast digesting protein.

Second post-workout meal, is ideally eaten one to two hours after the post workout shake. For those that workout in the afternoon, this may be dinner, or a bedtime micellar casein shake. For those that workout in the morning this may be breakfast or lunch. Think of your next big meal after a workout as the second post workout meal. This is where you can start think about ingesting more fats along with another dose of protein and an equal amount of carbohydrates.

Macronutrient considerations

The one to two hours surrounding a workout is where the majority of your daily carbohydrate intake will occur, think of over 75% of your daily total. This serves a couple of purposes:

  • Fuel the current workout
  • Refill glycogen stores for the next workout
  • Take advantage of insulin and other hormonal responses in the body to training
  • By minimizing carb intake over the rest of the day, we minimize the body’s insulin response which should in turn lead to higher insulin sensitivty during the workout and help with a greater anabolic effect

During the one to two hours before and after a workout we want to minimize the amount of fat eaten, ideally having zero fats this close to a workout. Fats serve to slow down the rate of digestion and absorption of food and nutrients and this is the exact opposite effect we want when thinking about workout nutrition. We want fast and easily absorbed food and nutrients in order to fuel the training session and also avoid any stomach discomfort during a workout. Nothing worse than digestion issues during a heavy squat.

Ideally your fat intake is at opposite times of the day to your workout. I.e., if you workout in the afternoon, most of your fat intake will be during the morning and tapering off towards the workout. With a little increase in fats during dinner and bedtime. For morning workouts, there’ll be a gradual increase in fat consumption from almost nothing to a higher fat content at night time.

Protein is the only macronutrient that timing isn’t an issue, the only concern is that we time it evenly throughout the day. Close to the workout we want fast digesting proteins as well, which generally requires the use of whey protein isolate. Again to take advantage of the insulin reponse within the body. The use of whey protein powders and BCAA’s is great to use around the workout.

Training Time

Another consideration is the time of your training, as this shifts the workout nutrition window. If you train first thing in the morning, you don’t really have the option of eating three hours before a workout (unless you wake up in the middle of the night, which I wouldn’t recommend). So, this would lead to a stronger focus on fast digesting carbs and proteins right before a workout. The volume of liquid will also be personal preference due to digestion comfort during rigorous training.

Working out in the afternoons/evening allows more flexibility prior to training but the limitations become dinner time and/or bed time nutrition. Which mustn’t be too close to bed that it distrupts sleep patters.

Your schedule

Everyone’s schedule is different and some people have a lot of options when it comes to eating and others don’t. What’s important is you take the principles around workout nutrition and adapt them as much as possible into your schedule, one of the key factors being consistency. Consistency will be the best thing you can do regarding solid nutrition.

My workout nutrition plan

I workout in the afternoons, around 5pm. My workout nutrition window begins at 3pm. Having a home gym also makes pre-intra-post workout shakes super easy, as I just have to walk into the kitchen and make a new shake.

Shakes – for a cardio day or light day I will skip the pre workout shake. For heavier/longer training I will increase the carbohydrate levels


1 banana

4:45 – Pre-Workout Shake

  • 1g Betain Anyhdrous (TMG)
  • 3.2g Beta Alanine
  • 1.5g HMB
  • 5g Creatine
  • 40g Dextrose power
  • 25g Whey Protein powder
  • 200mg Caffeine tablet
  • 200mg L-Theanine tablet

5:00 – Intra-Workout Shake

  • 25-40 g Gatorade powder
  • 6g Citrulline Malate
  • 6g BCAA powder

7:00 – Post workout Shake

  • 1g Betain Anyhdrous (TMG)
  • 3.2g Beta Alanine
  • 1.5g HMB
  • 50-60g Dextrose powder
  • 25g Whey Protein powder

8:00 – Dinner

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