More often than not I see people skipping their pre and post workout nutrition and this is a huge mistake in terms of recovery and how it could affect your goals long term.
If you skip either, you may find yourself dragging during the workout, find that it is harder to recover after your workout (more soreness and fatigue), have low energy and high hunger and cravings.
My general rule is
Keep it small and eat at least an hour before you workout. (See below for working out first thing in the morning).
If you eat breakfast at 8 a.m. and your workout is at 10 a.m. you are probably fueled enough to not worry about having an extra snack. If you eat at 7 a.m. and want to workout at 11 a.m., I would suggest having something small around 10 a.m. Here are a few examples.
An egg and toast.
Greek yogurt and fruit.
A protein bar or shake with fruit.
Post workout is what I see skipped most often because sometimes it seems so wrong to eat after your just worked so hard to make progress. But this is completely the wrong mindset. Post workout nutrition is so important because your muscles are ready to be replenished so it is the PERFECT time for protein AND carbohydrates! If you are fearing carbs do yourself a favor and have them at least post workout, even if you skimp on them during other times of the day. It is also a great time for protein to help build and repair your muscles. By skipping this you are potentially hurting your recovery which in turn can prolong getting results.
Your post workout fuel could be the same as above but maybe just a little bit more volume. If you need numbers start to play around with 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of carbs. One reason protein shakes work well here is because you don’t have to think a whole lot. One scoop of protein, some fruit and maybe a bit of honey and you have everything you need. Taking post workout nutrition in a liquid form also helps your body access fuel easier and is a good choice for those who don’t have an appetite right after exercise.
When it comes to timing throughout your day, if you are working out at 5 p.m. and plan to have dinner after your workout that is perfect. When my schedule allows, I like to workout before I eat a meal. That is not always the case though, so I rely heavily on post workout snack and shakes in between.
I hope this helps and here is some more information, with my take, on these commonly asked questions.
What are supplements and should I take them?
Supplements are products that essentially supplement your nutrition and I don’t really ever recommend them to my general clients who are looking to lose weight or just stay healthy. Could they help? Potentially. But are they required? No. For example what would a pre workout supplement do? It may be designed to increase energy, hydrate your body and prevent muscle breakdown. But couldn’t you get those things in a cup of coffee, a bottle or water and some eggs or chicken. I may recommend protein bars or shakes to my clients if it is convenient for them and they enjoy them. See below why I don’t think they are the end of world.
Does my meal the night before affect my workout the next day?
This is great to consider, if you have not before. For me personally, I can 100% tell the difference if I eat carbs the night before for dinner or if I simply stick to protein and veggies. So in my experience, I know if I want to hit the gym hard the next day, I need carbs in my dinner the night before. I know some people who this is not true for but it is worth experimenting if you notice a pattern of having low energy.
What if I workout first thing in the morning?
Following what I said in the previous answer, I can get away with not eating first thing early morning if I have a dinner high in carbs the night before. If I am waking up and walking out the door to workout I may have a banana or protein bar, I may not. I really pay attention to what my body needs. Some people can not stomach anything first thing in the morning and have great workouts. It is highly dependent on your preferences and your body. Start to notice your patterns and if you are unsure of what to eat, start with something small, like a few bites of a protein bar, a little bit of greek yogurt and fruit, and see how it affects your body.
But I thought protein bars and protein shakes are bad?
The whole food gurus may frown at my answer but I am totally ok with protein shakes and bars here and there. Is it the absolute best choice, with the purest ingredients? No. BUT if it helps make your food choices easier then go for it. The goal is to not to have to put a lot of effort into your food choices and there are much bigger rocks to worry about. Sometimes for that very reason these types of supplements can actually help you make progress because of the convenience factor.
Notice your patterns, eat foods you like, and that fit easily into your schedule and start experimenting with what pre and post workout foods work for you.