What you put into your body before, during and after a workout is an important component in your overall training regime. Taking in the right nutrients at the right time can make all the difference to your exercise an recovery. There are many varying theories on what is right and wrong when it comes to workout nutrition, but there are definitely some solid recommendations backed by science too.
If you’re just starting out, taking on a more serious training regime for an ultimate goal or changing your fitness goals altogether, trying out different things can prove to be tricky. What you need can vary slightly due to the exercise you’re doing and the kind of support you need from nutrients to maximise your workout potential.
Firstly, it is important to establish what your relationship with sports is. Whether you’re an endurance athlete, a bodybuilder looking to gain muscle or simply someone who, while not a serious sportsperson, likes to exercise regularly and takes health seriously. Everyone’s needs vary but there are some basics that everyone can follow and adapt to their specific needs.
Before you start
Making sure your body is prepped and ready to go before you start your workout is a vital step to give your body everything it needs. If your body isn’t primed for a good workout then how can you expect to achieve the best possible results?
Getting the right balance of macro-nutrients in your diet, on a regular basis, puts your body in good stead for getting you through your workout with ease. Load up on the right fats, carbohydrates and proteins for optimal performance and you’ll find you’ll get the energy that you need to allow you to power through a tough routine.
Start by trying to get into the right zone before your workout. Make sure that you are energised and ready to go about 15 to 30 minutes before you decide to do any exercise. Many pre-workout nutritional supplements include caffeine, and for good reason, as it helps to increase your alertness and focus while also reducing the feeling of fatigue and helping to stimulate fat burning.
Fill up on amino acids to ensure that your muscle glycogen levels are topped up ready for your workout. Low levels of glycogen can lead to muscle fatigue and hinder your ability to complete high intensity exercises. Staying hydrated is super important too, and not only just before your workout. Drinking 0.5-0.6 litres of water about four hours before you workout and 0.2-0.4 litres about 15 minutes before can help to keep your fluids balanced throughout and aid the prevention of excessive fluid loss.
To keep you going
Refueling during a workout is essential and can help your body to keep going when it might otherwise struggle without the ideal nutrition. Make sure you are replacing any fluid you’re losing through sweating so you don’t become dehydrated. Remaining hydrated also helps to balance your electrolytes – such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium – which play an important role in the proper functioning of your body.
Ideally you should be drinking around 250ml of water every 15-20 minutes for optimal hydration. You can add electrolytes to your water if you find your thirst isn’t going away. If you’re retaining water, then that suggests your salt intake may be too high.
Vitamin B12 is a great weapon when it comes to improving your endurance during exercise and increasing your ability to work-out for longer. It contributes to a normal energy-yielding metabolism which helps reduce the perception of fatigue to keep you going. It can be taken orally, as a sublingual or as a patch – with the patches being best. Vitamin B3 can also help some people with fatigue, especially in the form of NADH, which can be taken sublingually to get into the bloodstream better.
To ensure your muscles are adequately supported during your workout stock up on amino acids and proteins. These are essential components in muscle synthesis which reinforce increased strength, the performance of your muscles and the recovery of your muscles. Find your support in the form of creatine: a naturally produced amino acid that is very common in many nutritional supplements designed to be taken during a workout.
Complementing creatine, D-ribose is the preferred energy source of your mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of your cells, so keeping them refuelled quickly prevents delayed-onset muscle soreness and post-workout energy crashes. People are advised to take 1-3 scoops (each 5g) per day. D-ribose can reduce long recovery times especially.
For Ultimate Recovery
Don’t delay your body’s recovery post workout! Your body starts working to replenish your muscle glycogen levels immediately after your workout. By taking in the right nutrients you can help your body along to a much more speedy recovery.
Ideally you should have your post workout meal within a 30-minute window of your workout. The meal you choose is important too. A fast-digesting meal comprised of simple carbohydrates and proteins is perfect. It will allow your body to refuel so you can get back to working out again much sooner than you would be able to if you hadn’t had those all-important replenishing nutrients.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are your muscle’s best friend when it comes to recovery. The right amino acids will allow your muscles to refuel as well as aid the growth of your muscle mass. Amino acids like L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine are absorbed much faster than other amino acids. They help to increase the rate of protein synthesis and help to reduce the protein breakdown in your muscles too.
Hydration is key at every stage of your workout. During exercise you lose water and electrolytes while you are sweating. Losing just one pint of fluid can translate to a whole pound of lost body weight so it is crucial to properly rehydrate immediately after you’re done working out. Staying hydrated doesn’t only help you from losing body weight that you don’t want to lose but also helps your body to digest all of the vital nutrients that you have worked so hard to put into your body. It also helps to repair any damaged muscles that you may have sustained during exercise and reduces the time it takes for your heart rate to recover.
There are so many different combinations and ways to get the right pre-, intra- and post-workout nutrition. From the right diet or meal plans to the extra support from proper nutritional supplements. As long as you are taking care of your body, with the optimum nutrition for you and your workout style, you’ll be taking the right steps to helping you achieve your fitness potential.
For more information and objective advice on which supplements to use, visit examine.com, which explores the science behind common, over-the-counter supplements.