What you eat before or after your weightlifting workouts has a big effect on progress. Eating the right foods before you train helps to give you energy and prepare you for the session ahead, while a good post-workout meal sets you up for optimum recovery. The ideal pre- and post-training eating plan depends on your goals, weight and individual needs.
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Preworkout for Performance
Eat a good meal or snack before you hit the weights, and you'll have more energy, lift heavier and perform at a higher intensity. About two to three hours before you're due to lift, eat a lean protein and fibrous carb meal, advises strength coach Nick Tumminello. This could be chicken breast with vegetables, some lean sliced beef with salad or cottage cheese with fruit. Additionally, nutritionist Dr. Mike Roussell suggests a preworkout cup of coffee alongside your meal to help give you a mental edge and potentially increase fat burning.
After a workout is the time to load up on carbs, according to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition. Your largest protein and carb meals should come at this time, and it's one time when you can include more unrefined carb sources, or liquid carbs, as these digest faster. Therefore, a post-workout meal could be of a turkey sandwich, a cereal bar or bagel and a protein shake, or a baked potato with salad and a glass of milk.
Not All About Timing
While many people try to eat according to a perfect schedule with regard to pre- and post-workout nutrition, the best approach to take is the one that best suits you. According to personal trainer and sports nutritionist Ben Greenfield, you needn't eat immediately after a workout to boost recovery and muscle growth, unless you haven't eaten anything prior to the workout or you're training again in the next eight hours.
Eating for Your Goals
The most important factor to take note of is eating for your own specific goals. The total amount of calories, protein, carbs and fat you eat over the course of a day will ultimately decide your progress, not what you eat directly around your workouts. If you're using weightlifting to help burn fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn each day, but if you're lifting for muscle and strength gain, a calorie surplus is required. Tweak your eating protocols around your workout to find how you perform best, and experiment with different food combinations and meal timings.