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Nutrition Both Before You Work Out and After

By Jeff Anderson Contributor
Updated: June 12, 2008
One of the most often asked questions about working out is what you should eat both before and after you work out. The biggest confusion seems to come when you want to figure out whether you should eat carbohydrates or protein, and when you should have each.

This isn't an easy question to answer, because it's all about what you as a bodybuilder need. There are number of replies to this question, and the right one depends on what your fitness goals are and what your present fitness level is. First, you need to figure out what you want to work toward. Then, you can figure out what you need to eat both before and after your workout.

Some common goals when working out are losing fat, gaining muscle mass, or maintaining your present fitness level.

If you are looking to lose fat, you fall into one of two categories; you're either: a) fit or relatively so and want to lose just a little weight; or you are b) heavier and want to accelerate your fat loss as much as possible.

In each of these cases, pre- and post-workout suggestions in regard to food consumption would differ as follows:

The first person, person A, would benefit from consuming a protein shake with essential fatty acids such as those contained in flax seed oil, but low in carbohydrates. If you have trouble consuming food or drinking before a workout, then you can also consume two egg whites plus one whole egg. After your workout, eat a balanced meal comprised of healthy carbohydrates, essential fats, and lean proteins. In addition, you'll want to consume plenty of high-fiber greens. If you can't eat a meal after your workout, then consume a protein shake made with protein powder and frozen fruit, with a little flax seed oil added. Alternatively, a banana with peanut butter is also a good choice.
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The second person, person B, could work out on an empty stomach. It would be fine to have a light meal before training, but not necessary. One of the best ways to work out if you are in this situation is to work out first thing in the morning before breakfast with your stomach empty, then after your workout have a breakfast of oatmeal and eggs, plus a grapefruit.

If you're looking to gain muscle mass, then you want to consume pre-workout proteins such as fish, chicken, or a protein shake, and/or almonds. After you eat, wait at least a half an hour before you begin to train.

Consuming a meal after you train is an optimal situation, but you can also have a shake made with protein or with a meal replacement powder; you can also have a banana with peanut butter or almond butter, and/or milk and oats as well. Any of these can replace breakfast, lunch or a snack.

If you simply wish to maintain where you are, simply consume a plain protein shake and have a banana before your workout. This will give you a burst of energy that will help you complete your workout with plenty of gusto. It is ideal if you eat a meal after your workout, but if you don't want to or can't, then get some complex carbohydrate and protein into your system, with something such as a protein shake and a whole-wheat slice of bread, or something similar.
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