Pre and Post Training Meals
You can work very hard during a training session but to maximize the training effects, you need to ensure you have some basic nutritional building blocks in place to support the work in the gym or on the field. Training sessions provide a stimulus for adaptation but the magic happens between training when the muscles and tissues in the body fueled by the appropriate nutrients get stronger and fitter.
During an exercise bout, fuels (glycogen and lipids) are used up and muscle is broken down. The aim of post workout nutrition is to replace lost fuel stores and to repair damaged muscle fibres before your next session.
Eating at specific times of the day/week especially around training/match sessions is referred to as nutrient timing. Nutrient timing can enhance performance, delay fatigue, accelerate recovery, boost immunity, amplify training adaptations and even improve body composition.
The fuel consumed before and after a training session can vary depending on the 1. goal of the person (fat loss, match performance, training) 2. Intensity 3. Duration
For the purpose of this article, we will just focus on training sessions where the focus is on improving training adaptations.
Before Gym Session (45-60 mins in duration): Protein is key.
If you have not eaten a regular meal containing protein in the previous 3 hours then eating a meal 30-60 minutes before the session is a good strategy.
This meal should contain some protein to reduce muscle breakdown.
Morning: 4 tbsp greek yogurt and berries.
Afternoon: tuna on oat cakes.
Evening: 2/3 scrambled eggs on brown bread.
Before Pitch Session (60 -90 minutes): Should be a mixture of carbohydrate and protein.
Similar to gym session but include more carbohydrates as session will require a greater demand for energy.
Should be eaten 2-3 hours before so that the body has time to digest and make available as fuel. Smaller snacks can be eaten closer to the training session, eg a banana an hour before a training.
Morning: Porridge with low fat milk and a banana.
Afternoon: Pasta with pesto sauce and chicken.
Evening: Potato with beans, cheese, fish or poultry plus salad.
Post Pitch and Gym Session: If you are training every day or very often, your post training meal is very important. If you are only training twice a week, it is probably less important as you will have plenty of time in the following days to replace fuel before your next session but it is still habit to eat some protein and carbohydrates after exercise.
Replace lost fluids, drink 1 litre for every hour of exercise.
Eat a meal containing protein and carbohydrate.
Aim to get 25-30g of protein. A palm sized source of meat or fish, 600ml of milk, 350g greek yogurt or 4 eggs are all good sources.
A fist sized portion of carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, pasta, quinoa etc and fist size of fruit and/or vegetables will help replace lost energy and speed up recovery.
Eat within 60 minutes to maximise 'the window of opportunity'.
If you are not eating your main meal for an hour or more, a snack containing some protein would be a excellent idea. 600ml milk and a banana is a perfect snack at this time. Easy to access and full of all the nutrients the body needs to start the rebuilding process.
Eating mega doses of protein in one go are not going to improve the training effect or magically build bigger muscles. It is more important to get regular protein doses throughout the day. 3-5 meals that contain 25g protein seem like the sweet spot and this will help the muscles adapt over the course of the day.
A banana and a pint of milk is an excellent food choice immediately after training especially if you don't have time to eat a proper meal for an hour or more.
Eating some carbohydrates and protein before and after training and matches can help improve training adaptations, performance and promote recovery.