We turn to science and the experts on optimal timing for pre-workout fuel and post-workout feeds.
The optimal timing of pre-workout fuel depends on the time of day and what is being consumed.
“Pre-workout nutrition is important for performance during the workout and encompasses the one to three hours before a training session,” says nutritionist and personal trainer Tom Fitzgerald. “However, if you train early in the morning and consume minimal food, dinner the night before becomes an important pre-workout meal.”
Eating too close to your workout will result in a heavy digestive tract, which will be felt during your burpees, so allowing at least an hour for adequate digestion is vital. This also allows enough time for the body to absorb the nutrients and for insulin levels to return to baseline levels so as not to inhibit fat-burn.
Once the weights are racked, the race for protein is on. Science points to protein consumption within 30 minutes of a workout, when the muscles are primed for nutrient intake. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal found that protein and carbohydrate supplementation immediately before and after resistance exercise resulted in significant increases in both lean body mass and strength over a 10-week period compared to ingesting the same supplementation further from training.
However, IsoWhey dietitian Belinda Reynolds says it’s still important to maintain adequate nutrition over the course of a day.
“We need to remember that the process of recovery continues for a good 12 hours after a workout, and therefore your protein and nutrient intake needs to reflect that,” says Reynolds.
“Look at consuming approximately 25g of protein every three hours for the 12 hours following a workout to maximise recovery and promote performance at your next session.”
Protein powders are often consumed post-workout for their easy digestibility, but new research is beginning to suggest they shouldn’t be reserved strictly to your post-workout arsenal.
According to studies published in the Sports Medicine journal, protein ingested before and during exercise acts to increase muscle protein synthesis rates once we are at rest, especially following heavy lifting or high-intensity workouts, leading to optimum recovery and muscle tone.
“It seems that although protein was always considered a supplement that is best taken after a workout, its consumption in small amounts before and during a workout is also useful,” says Reynolds.
Discover how protein works, why and when you should consume it.