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One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked, is whether you should eat before or after exercise.
The answer to this is not what to eat before or after, but rather, what to eat before and after. Eating at both points will be critical to your success.
It’s not a black and white picture either. What’s best for you to eat before and after each workout will heavily depend upon the workouts that you’re doing as well as the goals you have in place.
Taking all of this into account allows you to get the complete picture on the best pre and post workout foods and supplements.
The main thing to consider pre workout is what type of workout you are doing, as well as what your consumption has been like up to this point.
If you’ve been eating regular meals, spacing them out every 3-4 hours and making sure to get a balanced mix of proteins, carbs, and fats in each meal, you’ll already be well-fueled going into your workout, therefore the need for a pre workout meal or supplement isn’t nearly as critical
On the other hand, if you haven’t been eating regularly, you’re likely going to need some high energy fuel to get through your session.
Likewise, the type of workout matters as well. If you’re doing a 45 minute CrossFit sessions where it’s nonstop at maximal limits, you’ll need much different fueling than if you were doing a 30 minute steady state cycling session to burn fat.
In the former, you’ll need a good amount of both carbs and protein, and likely some pre workout supplements. I usually like to recommend some BCAA’s (Insane Energy Without Pills Or Pre-Workouts). In the latter, your last meal will easily provide sufficient fueling.
A good sign that you aren’t currently eating enough to fuel your workout is if you aren’t able to get through the full workout performing optimally. If you tank partway through, your pre workout fueling is likely to blame.
You might also wonder if you’re able exercise in a fasted state. The answer is yes as long as you can do the workout optimally. Learn your body and know yourself. The type of workout you have planned will likely determine whether you can or cannot do it fastest.
Next, your post workout meal will most heavily depend on the goals you have set for yourself. If you are seeking fat loss, you have a certain macro limit you need to maintain for the day, so your post workout intake will be lower than someone who is aiming to gain mass.
Look at your overall diet and then calculate your post workout meal from there. Just note that this is a critical time to eat, so you do want to allocate at least some carbs to this period, as well as a good dose of protein in the area of 20-40 grams.
Timeframe wise, common thought is that you must eat within 30 minutes of the workout being over, but I believe you have a little longer than that. If you shoot for between 30-60 minutes, you’ll be fine.
Now that you have some information about pre and post workout nutrition. Have a look at your current approach and see how it stacks up.
Could you do a better job in either of these two feeding windows?