Nutrient timing and the best snack options for your workouts
Written by Mišel Saban
Getting the most out of your workout is not just a case of what you do during the workout, it’s also important to think about what you eat and drink before, during and after. Your food and drink choices not only relate to how you fuel your workouts, but they also relate to how well you recover too. There are a few things to think about both in terms of optimal digestion but also the nutrient profile of the food you are eating in order that you get the most out of your body. What you will discover below are the best snack options for before, during and after your workouts to achieve the best results from both your workouts and your recovery.
Before training you want to arm your body with sufficient energy, but without compromising your digestion. Therefore, the best options will be high in carbohydrates, those that are simple or refined would be best. Very low fat or no fat is important so that your digestion is not compromised, as fat takes longer to digest, and to be converted into energy, than carbohydrates. You’ll also want some protein, but not too much because this takes longer to digest than simple carbohydrates too. Ideal options, therefore, include a banana with porridge or oat crackers, a fruit and vegan protein powder-based smoothie, some rice pudding with berries, a chia pudding made with plant-based milk and fruit.
During training, your objectives are to hydrate sufficiently, replace lost carbohydrates and to replace any electrolytes lost through perspiration. If your work out is less than an hour, you should only need water to rehydrate. Beyond an hour of exercise, you will need to think about replacing both carbohydrates and most likely some lost electrolytes. Carbohydrates should be replaced at between 30 to 40g of carbohydrates per hour. More than two hours of exercise, you’ll need to replenish carbohydrates at a rate of 60g per hour of exercise. The easiest way to do this is using either a shop-bought or homemade energy drink, but many of those contain additives that you don’t want so a home-made sports drink would be even better.
After your workout you have a window of opportunity. It lasts for between 20 and 40 minutes after exercise. Your objectives here are to repair tissue and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis whilst also restocking depleted muscle glycogen (energy stores). Protein can help achieve tissue repair whilst carbohydrates can stimulate protein synthesis and restore glycogen levels. In fact, in a study involving marine recruits, those who had a carbohydrate and protein supplement daily after training for 54 days of bootcamp had 33% fewer medical visits and 37% fewer muscle and tendon injuries than recruits who used a carbohydrate only control or a placebo. Some ideal recovery snacks therefore include porridge with peanut butter, a smoothie bowl with coconut, chia seeds and seeds, baked beans on toast, or a seeded flapjack.
These suggestions are designed for you to optimise your workouts and then feel ready for the next having recovered well from the previous workout. Taking these ideas on board may help your workouts become not only more enjoyable but also more beneficial in both the short and the long term.