Pre & Post-Workout Meals: Strength Training

Most of us who are reading this are probably working out and are keen to know more about nutrition as everyone has now realised that ‘The First Wealth is Health”.

Many of us are using this quarantine period for improving our fitness by taking simple steps such as introducing exercise in our routine.

Whether your goal is to lose fat or to gain muscle or to look fit or if you are an athlete aiming to keep up for your performance, the first step towards achieving it starts from focusing on your Pre & post-workout meal.

Why do we need a post-workout meal, after all why do experts emphasise on it, how does it matter whether we have it or not? Hang on a minute, let’s go through the science behind it.

We have over 600 muscles in our bodies which make up around ½- ⅓ of our body weight. They are connected with other tissues and body parts to bind us, hold us up and help us carry out our everyday functions with ease. 

Even if we are not into any form of training, it is important to give them constant attention because the way you treat them on a daily basis will determine whether they will grow or wither.

When we work out, our muscles get stressed and tiny tears are formed which help them to get leaner and stronger as they heal. 

When this recovery gets hampered due to lack of some essential nutrients, muscle soreness and fatigue step in and we tend to lose a small amount of muscle mass. None of us would like that to happen, right?

Apart from enhancing overall recovery, a healthy post-workout meal can improve your body fat utilization, bone mass, immune function, body composition and performance. 

One of the reasons people experience plateaus in their workout routine is often due to a lack of proper meal planning post-exercise.You might wonder what an ideal post-workout meal looks like. This meal depends on your goals and your training,

Let's talk about strength training in this article.

Strength training particularly uses resistance against your muscles leading to the development of lean muscle mass, increased strength and toning. There are metabolic, biochemical and hormonal changes that occur while we do weight training,

Some of them are:

1) Our muscle glycogen( energy stores) gets depleted
2) Our oxygen requirement increases
3) Fat metabolism is accelerated for up to 48 hours.
4) Free radicals( metabolism by-products) are formed
5) Blood flow remains high even after hours post-exercise
6) Protein synthesis or breakdown occurs which depends on the nutrient supply post-exercise
7) Muscles are more sensitive to insulin response
8) Cortisol (stress hormone ) tends to be high which can hamper your recovery but it can be controlled by a proper post-workout meal.

Having a post-workout meal immediately post your exercise opens a window where maximum benefits can be obtained. Don’t worry, this window is not just for 20 minutes post-workout but 4 or more hours post-workout. 

Thus not just your post-workout meal but what you eat for 4 hours or more after workout plays a very important role in recovery and repair.

1) It increases your insulin levels leading to increased uptake of glucose by your muscles replenishing your glycogen stores.
2) Muscle repair initiates, arresting muscle breakdown
3) Blood flow is increased aiding in supplying nutrients and waste removal from muscles
4) Cortisol and free radicals get lowered, improving our immune system and cell recovery.

There are 4 important segments of post-workout meal

1) Hydration: To ensure maximum blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles.

Have at least 250- 500 ml of water to hydrate which can include coconut or lemon water that limits the multiplication of exercise by-products

2) Restoration: Incorporation of a smart carb source to replenish glycogen stores without diverting the blood flow to your digestive system from your muscles. You can have fruit, a small boiled potato or 2-3 dates or some sugarcane juice.

3) Rebuilding: A scoop of whey protein containing 20-24 grams can be an ideal choice as it contains all the essential amino acids in the required proportions to initiate muscle protein synthesis, it is easier to get digested and assimilating. 

You can consume 3-4 egg whites to obtain 12 grams of protein which could be an alternative for the days you miss the protein shake. Vegetarians can choose to eat lentils, milk after 30-40 minutes of the workout.

4) Recovery: Micronutrients like vitamins A, C, E and minerals like zinc, chromium and selenium act like antioxidants that eliminate free radicals out of the system. 

Omega-3 is also an important supplement for reducing inflammation in the muscles that result in the development of free radicals. One should consume these nutrients in the form of supplements post-workout. And guess what? These nutrients also strengthen your immune system!

Just as post-workout nutrition, even pre-workout nutrition is critical to getting results.

Your pre-workout meal contributes equally to that much-toned look than just the post-workout meal itself. So here goes:

Pre-workout meal:

A seasonal fruit is always a great option, especially when you train first thing in the morning or after long hours of work. All you need is a gap of 15-20 minutes between the fruit and workout. 

If you workout out post any heavy meal then a gap of 1 hour or more is what you need. Avoid taking meat pre-workout as it is devoid of fibre and takes a longer time to leave the digestive tract which interferes with the blood flow to the working muscle group which hampers the efficiency of efforts put during exercise. 

However for protein, you can choose egg whites, ½ scoop of whey protein 20-30 mins pre-workout. Milk products, beans can be consumed an hour prior to the exercise. Avoid heavy fats pre-workout.

By doing all of this, your blood sugars will stay stable, cortisol response blunts before or after exercise, glycogen is quickly available for the working muscle group and there is minimum muscle tissue damage.