Understanding what to eat before, during and after a workout can be confusing. Some experts say it is a critical component for anyone working out and others say to not worry about it so much. I think the one thing that we all can agree on is paying attention to what you consume on a daily basis is important. Focusing on consuming quality nutrients around your workout can never hurt and can only help. 

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In this post I am going to talk about why you should pay attention to what you consume around your workout.

Workout “Window” Nutrition 

Most people that workout consistently have 3 primary goals:

  • Minimize body fat
  • Increase lean muscle tissue
  • Improve performance (in exercise and daily life)

If you are concerned with maximizing your workout efforts and getting the fastest results, you need to take your workout nutrition seriously. Effective workouts demand complete nutrition, and these simple guidelines, I am going to talk about will help you make the right choices to refuel your body for better results.

Recovery Time Is Critical

Workout Nutrition

What nutrients you consume, or don’t consume around your workout time can affect your results. What you eat throughout the whole day will ultimately determine your results. However, proper nutrient timing can accelerate your results.

Recovery time should be thought of as a window of opportunity. Before, during, and after a workout, your body has the ability to optimize hormones, increase glycogen replenishment, and repair muscle tissue by ingesting amino acids. Muscle protein synthesis occurs, setting off muscle tissue recovery and repair, replacing fluids, and helping the body adapt to the stresses of the workout.

What and how much you consume before, during, and after your workouts will depend on your goals and type of workout.

I am going outline what workout “window” nutrition is, why it’s important, and a chart explaining when and what you need to eat to optimize your performance and physique goals.

What Exercise “Window ” Nutrition Is and Why You Need To Do It 

 What you consume before, during and after your workout can be important. The intensity of your workout, or lack thereof will determine your specific needs for workout nutrition. By consuming certain ratios of nutrients before, during, and after your workout, you improve your recovery, body composition, and performance. 


There have been many studies that have looked at everything from the composition of carbohydrates, to exact amino acid compositions. There continues to be studies that conclude there is a need to take advantage of this “window” of opportunity, also known as the “anabolic window” for everyone from the elite athlete to the recreational exercise enthusiast.

There are 3 different goals we are looking to accomplish when taking advantage of this “window.”

  • Replenish glycogen to bring back energy storage;
  • Decrease protein breakdown to help minimize damage caused during the workout;
  • Increase protein synthesis to increase muscle size and muscle quality

Below are some of the major benefits of taking advantage of the workout nutrition “window.”

The Importance of Workout Nutrition 

When we workout with intensity, our body breaks down muscle tissue. Fuel form our food is needed for this process to occur. This is the start of the physique and performance process. But in order for this to occur, we need to help our body repair when this happens.

Repair and rebuilding occurs through the breakdown of damaged proteins (protein breakdown) and the reconstruction of new proteins (protein synthesis). During exercise protein synthesis is increased slightly after a resistance workout, while protein breakdown increases dramatically. We basically breakdown more than we build up. Another reason why workout nutrition is important. We need to maximize building as much as we can.

In order for muscle hypertrophy to occur (building of muscle), we need to have a positive protein balance. We want to make sure that we have enough raw material available for protein synthesis to occur, so it doesn’t fall far behind protein breakdown.

Studies have shown that when the proper amounts of nutrients are consumed before, during, and after a workout, protein synthesis is stimulated and protein breakdown is suppressed.

Keep in mind that we need both proteins and carbohydrates during this time for optimal muscle building. We will touch on how you should consume fewer carbohydrates during this time, if your main goal is fat loss. Again, timing will be the key.

Your body needs to have these raw materials available in order for our bodies to rebuild and recover. Having these materials around (amino acids and carbs) can signal our bodies that it’s time to rebuild.

We improve the availability in two ways.

  • Increased blood flow to the skeletal muscle during and after exercise means that more nutrients are floating around more quickly.
  • Providing amino acid and glucose dense blood supply during and after exercises means that the rate of protein synthesis goes up.

We improve availability by having more blood circulating more rapidly, and by having more nutrients in that blood.

Don’t Forget That It’s A “Window of Opportunity” 

During this window, your muscles are primed to accept nutrients that can stimulate muscle repair, muscle growth, and muscle strength. This window opens immediately after your workout and starts to close pretty fast. Research suggest that while protein synthesis persists for at least 48 hours after exercise, it’s most important to get post workout nutrition immediately, and within 2 hours afterward. 


You can also increase your benefits by having nutrients available before and during a workout.

If you feed your body during this window, you’ll get the benefits.

If you don’t take advantage of the “anabolic window” fast enough, you decrease muscle glycogen storage and protein synthesis.

What Do You Need To Consume 

There are many types of foods that can be consumed during this time. Whole foods can be consumed and can provide some great results, but they have their downfalls.

Some people aren’t hungry right after exercise.

Whole foods digest slowly, and we want nutrients to be available quickly. Before a workout this will work fine. But during and after a workout not so much.

Whole foods are less practical and may not be available during these times

The most optimal form to consume your nutrients during this time is liquid form. Carbohydrates such as cyclic dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, etc., and proteins such as protein hydrolysates, isolates and amino acids digest faster and are taken up in the blood stream more efficiently. It can accelerate recovery by utilizing insulin for nutrient transport into cells, can result in rapid digestion and absorption, and is often better tolerated during and after workouts.

Workouts, Goals, and How Much to Consume

Remember to keep in mind that how intense your workouts are and your goals will determine your intake.

Intense bouts of exercise such as weightlifting and metabolic conditioning circuits lasting 20 minutes, or more, and intense endurance types of activities lasting 45 minutes, or more are ideal for workout nutrition.

Walking your dog, yard work, and other forms of active play may not need any workout nutrition.

If you are looking to lose more fat, you will need to create a caloric deficit. Consuming too many calories during workout nutrition can hinder your fat loss results. Eliminating carbohydrates during this time may be optimal. To ensure recovery and retaining muscle tissue, consuming 20-40 grams of whey protein and/or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s (branched chain amino acids) will do the trick.

If you are seeking more muscle tissue, you will add carbohydrates in a 2:1, and up to a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

Below is a cheat sheet for you’re to use

 Fat Loss Workout Nutrition 

Pre-workout (1-3 hours before): 20-40 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbohydrates (whole food or liquid form, or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s.

Peri-Workout (during): 20-40 grams of protein hydrolysates, isolates, or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s and 20-80 grams of carbohydrates such as cyclic dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, etc.

Post-Workout (immediately after): 20-40 grams of protein hydrolysates, isolates, or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s and 20-80 grams of carbohydrates such as cyclic dextrin, maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose, etc.

1-Hour After Workout:  20-40 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbohydrates (whole food or liquid form)

Muscle Building Workout Nutrition 

Pre-workout (1-3 hours before): 20-40 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbohydrates (whole food or liquid form)

Peri-Workout (during): 20-40 grams of protein hydrolysates, isolates, or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s and

Post-Workout (immediately after): 20-40 grams of protein hydrolysates, isolates, or 5-10 grams of BCAA’s

1-Hour After Workout:  20-40 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbohydrates (whole food or liquid form)


With all of the astounding research that pre and post-workout nutrition can help us reach these goals. When workout nutrition is taken seriously, you can take advantage of stimulatory affects of growth hormone, testosterone, insulin, increased protein synthesis, and replenish glycogen storage better than any other time of the day.




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