“What to eat before a workout to build muscle” and “is it better to eat before or after a workout” are two of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to maximizing your exercise routine.
It probably comes as no surprise that knowing what to eat before and after a workout can drastically affect the energy you feel during a workout and the quality of your exercise routine. Not to mention the amount of energy you retain after your workout. But with so much information and misinformation out there, it can be difficult to know where to start. So we’re here to set you straight on what to eat before and after a workout.
What To Eat Before a Workout and Why It Matters
Getting the right nutrients before a workout means eating the right food.
Whether you’re working out at home, in a gym, or with a personal trainer, what you eat and when you eat it matters. The easiest way to get into it is by dividing your food into the three macronutrient groups, then weighing those groups amongst each other to meet your desired diet.
It’s important to maintain a balanced and complete meal when you’re eating to maximize your exercise routine. This means focusing on healthy proteins, carbs, and fats and minimizing the amount of processed carbs and trans fats you consume.
Believe it or not, when you eat can be just as important as what you eat. It doesn’t matter if you eat all the right foods if you don’t give your stomach an adequate amount of time to digest them before your workout. While healthy fats are one of the three macronutrients you should focus on, eating them right before your workout does you no good since fats need more time to be processed.
The Macronutrients: Proteins, Carbs, and Fats
Protein doesn’t just fuel you during your workout – it has everything to do with your muscles. As one of the best foods for muscle gain, protein is responsible for improving your muscle performance, growth, and recovery. Contrary to popular belief, animal products aren’t the only source of protein. You can actually get all the protein you need from plants, which means there are a variety of options for those on a plant-based diet.
Protein is hands down one of the best foods for muscle gain. If you’re looking to add some protein-rich vegetables to your diet, you can’t go wrong with soybeans containing all nine essential amino acids. Olive oil, one of the best healthy fats, has also been known to stimulate protein production for muscle growth.
- Lean beef
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
- White meat chicken
- Beans and legumes
- Chia seeds
While the need for and use of protein probably comes as no surprise, did you know that your body needs carbs and fats as well? Even though you’ve probably been conditioned to see carbs and fats as the evils of the food world, they’re just as necessary as proteins and vitamins for maximizing the results from your exercise routine.
Carbs are essential for short-term and high-intensity exercise routines, such as HIIT. This is because carbs are converted to glucose, which your muscles use to fuel your workout. However, not all carbs are created equal. Just like anything else, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs include oats, prunes, and lentils, while bad carbs are typically those containing refined ingredients, such as white bread and pastries.
- Whole-grain toast
- Brown rice
Believe it or not, fat is actually the key to maintaining a high energy level in moderate to low-intensity exercise routines and longer endurance workouts such as running or swimming. That is, as long as you remember the difference between good fats and bad fats.
So how much fat should you eat every day? Monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and saturated fats all serve various beneficial effects for your health, while trans fats should be avoided whenever possible.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for your heart, cholesterol, and overall health, while saturated fats should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily diet. Like the number of carbs and proteins, how much healthy fat to eat each day depends on your calorie requirements for weight loss, maintaining your weight, or gaining weight.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
The newly popular Keto diet is a great example of a high-fat diet that minimizes the number of carbs you ingest while increasing your fat intake so that it encompasses 75 percent of your daily diet. The Mediterranean diet is considered a moderate-fat diet, meaning that healthy fats would make up 35 percent to 40 percent of your daily diet.
What Makes a “Complete Meal”?
If you’re tired of constantly asking yourself or others what to eat before a workout, it might be time to try meal prepping. As long as you have the time or ability to meal plan and prep, creating complete and balanced meals ahead of time can make your life so much easier. However, meal prepping isn’t for everyone. Not everyone can eat the same thing seven times a week.
If you don’t have the time to meal prep or can’t stomach eating the same thing every day, all you need is a crash course on building a complete meal on the fly. That way, you won’t be stuck wondering what to eat before a workout. The basics of a complete meal include proteins (25 percent), carbs (25 percent), and vegetables (50 percent). If eaten two to three hours before your exercise routine, you would also benefit from adding a small portion of healthy fats.
As always, remember to hydrate like your body needs it to function – because it does.
While it’s important to drink water throughout the day, it’s vital if you have a workout planned for later that evening. Water and sodium-based beverages are an especially great addition to your pre-exercise routine, as they can prevent dehydration during a workout. Not only can water prevent dehydration, but it can also enhance your workout performance. On the other hand, dehydration can lead to muscle spasms, cramps, and decreased energy.
Drinking two cups of water two to three hours before your planned exercise routine and one cup about 10 minutes before will keep you hydrated throughout your workout – although it’s important to drink water during as well.
Timing is Everything
It’s best to eat a complete meal approximately two to three hours beforehand to get the most out of your exercise routine. This allows your body to begin to digest the nutrients while also avoiding the full or tired feeling you can get when working out after eating.
Unfortunately, eating a complete meal at the desired time isn’t always possible. Sometimes you’re running late from class, work, or dropping your kids off at a school event. Whatever it is that’s keeping you from eating two or three hours before your workout; you’re not the only one.
While you can eat closer to the time you workout, the closer you are to your exercise routine, the smaller and simpler to digest your meal should be. That means you should focus on protein and carbs and skip the fat. Fat can be beneficial to maximize your workout session when consumed over two hours prior. Greek yogurt, oatmeal, protein bars, and fruit are great examples of last-minute protein and carb-fueled snacks.
Many people who can’t, or prefer not to, eat a full meal two or three hours before their exercise routine wield protein powder as their weapon of choice. Protein powder is a great, versatile option. You can include it in smoothies if you’re on the go or add it to a number of recipes if you want the advantages protein powder gives you without dealing with the chalky taste.
The After Workout Care
After working out, it’s important to rehydrate as soon as possible and make sure you have something to eat, especially if your workout qualifies as high-intensity or long-endurance. Although the focus of this article has been on what to eat before a workout, if you ignore what you eat after you work out, then all of your hard work may have been for naught.
While focusing on the fuel you put into your body after a workout, it would also be beneficial to ensure you’re working on muscle recovery from the outside in as well. This is where using CBD for pain, such as muscle soreness, comes in. Whether used alone or with other top recommended products, CBD can be helpful in a number of ways throughout your day-to-day life to maximize your exercise routine.
What to Eat After a Workout to Re-Energize
Complex carbs and healthy proteins should be your after-workout go-to to re-energize your muscles. If you’re an athlete or do intense weight training for an hour or more at a time, your level of protein consumption may need to increase after your workout as well.
Did you know that eating whole eggs as part of your after-workout recovery can actually boost your muscle-building response? Making sure to balance your protein diet with carbs and healthy fats after your workout is just as important. As we stated above, achieving a balanced diet is key to maximizing your exercise routine.
Healthy post-workout foods:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Chocolate milk
- Veggie omelet
- Protein smoothie
- Grilled veggies
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter
CBD For Pain: The Secret Weapon
Athletes from several sports and lifestyles support the benefits of using CBD for pain management and relief. In fact, cbdMD recently became the official CBD partner of the NOBULL CrossFit Games.
With personal preference in mind, there are a few different ways you can use CBD for pain: as a way to ease post-exercise muscle soreness and as a form of relaxation. Using CBD cream for pain in the form of a CBD topical is one of the most common methods of pain management used by workout fiends and professional athletes. That’s why cbdMD developed an array of products using CBD cream for pain, including Relieve, Freeze, Recover, and Revive – all of which contain approved topical pain relievers as the active ingredients.
While using CBD cream for pain management, you can support your muscle recovery and overall health by adding CBD tinctures, softgels, gummies, or even bath bombs to your post-exercise routine. Keeping a consistent CBD routine throughout the day can not only keep your mood steady so that you’re excited about your upcoming workout but also make your workout easier.
In addition to using CBD cream for pain to combat the after-effects of a great workout, sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors of the muscle recovery process. As such, you getting a good night’s sleep can become incredibly important for maintaining a healthy exercise routine. Our specialized broad spectrum CBD PM formula with melatonin, now available in higher CBD concentrations, is the perfect complement to a healthy post-workout lifestyle.
When it comes down to it, using CBD for pain (sore, tight muscles) in combination with knowing what to eat before a workout and when to eat it can greatly enhance your progress. For more information on the many benefits of CBD and how it can maximize your workout potential, check out our blog and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news and special offers.