You spoke, we listened! A reader on our Facebook page requested today’s topic, and it deals with what to eat before, during, and after your workout for optimal performance and body composition. It’s a fantastic question (thank you), and one that I am asked very often. My short answer? Well, it depends.

The goal of pre- and post-workout nutrition is twofold: 1. It must fuel the workout, and 2. It must help with recovery or stop catabolism (i.e. muscle loss).

So let’s cover pre-workout nutrition first. Pre-workout nutrition breaks down into two components: 1. Carbohydrates for energy, and 2.Protein to prevent muscle breakdown. Both nutrients take about 60-90 minutes to get into the blood stream, so it is advisable to eat before training. If you train very early in the morning, at least have a protein shake on the way to the gym.

What about post-workout nutrition? For the longest time, gym goers have been told that they need to take advantage of the “anabolic window” which closes within 30 minutes after your workout (“Bro, you better chug that protein shake within 7 seconds after the last set or else you’re not gonna grow”). First of all, this is not accurate as the anabolic window stays open for up to three hours after your workout. Secondly, the need for “insert supplement/nutrition here” intake immediately after the workout is not as necessary; the amount of glycogen used during a workout is a lot less than most of us think.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the issue at hand. The best way to find out what nutrition you need for your workouts is to ask yourself: What are you training for? 95% of the people that we encounter at the gym are there to look better, to feel more confident in their body. Other goals include to perform better, to strengthen a previously injured muscle group, etc.

If you’re working on improving your looks (and especially if you are not training again that day), you do not need to replenish glycogen since depletion levels are only around 30% after a typical weight training session. What we need to focus on is creating a caloric deficit, which also means carb loading protein shakes post-workout is unnecessary.

A few more pointers:

1. Your pre-workout meal is the first line of defense for recovery. Make sure to get 30-50 grams of carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein within 90 minutes before your workout.

2. You do not need massive amounts of carbohydrates post-workout unless you are training again that same day.

3. BCAA’s are only needed during the workout if your diet is very severe.

4. 10-20 grams of whey protein are fine as your post-workout shake.

5. Instead of focusing on protein intake just pre- and post-workout, focus more on your overall protein consumption throughout the day.

6. Creatine is the only supplement that makes sense as a post-workout shake nutrient.

7. Caffeine can be used to improve performance (think 2mg per lbs.. of body weight), but do so only twice a week.

Hope you found this helpful! If you have any other questions or topics you would like for me to cover in our weekly newsletters, feel free to post them on our Facebook page ( or just reply to this email!

Until next time,
Maik Wiedenbach