The subject of pre, intra and post-workout nutrition is a highly contested subject. They are the main staple for any and all supplement companies to sell you the latest and greatest innovations in performance workout nutrition. The arguments for and against will rage on while there are competition and opinion in the industry.
I have been a competitive Natural bodybuilder for 12 years and have been working in the industry for even longer as a Personal trainer, Gym owner, and Sports Nutritionist. Here is my take on pre, intra and post-workout nutrition, and included what I personally use right now.
Being very traditional and simplistic in my approach my Pre-workout nutrition will always begin with a whole-foods meal around 2 hours before training. This would be either chicken, turkey or white fish, with white rice and vegetables. I’ll often have omega 3 oil as a dressing and either almond butter or whole almonds as well. At around 45 mins before I train, I will have some whey isolate and a simple carb like cream of rice plus or kids’ cereal. I will usually combine this with some coconut oil too.
About 20 mins before my workout I will have a pre-workout supplement. This will always contain:
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Arginine Alpha Ketoglutarate
- Beta Alanine
- Citrulline Malate
- Vitamin B6
I will always go for these ingredients as they are for me the most useful compounds for focus, anti-fatigue and maximum performance. Volt covers all the bases for me and tastes good too.
Intra or peri-workout nutrition is gathering more speed as the knowledge of its application has widened. More people have got on board with the science behind proper fuelling to prevent catabolism and constant performance levels throughout the workout.
The first port of call is carbohydrate. As a natural athlete, if you think you can maintain muscle mass and performance without a decent level of carb intake, you’ll be sorely mistaken and will stay firmly in the realms of average. I use highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD). This is a relatively new designer carbohydrate that has a clever property that makes it ideal as an intra workout carbohydrate. Because of its structure and low osmolarity, it can pass through the stomach very quickly, so when taken during exercise it provides a sustained release of energy and keeps your blood glucose stable. When you take traditional carbs like maltodextrin or dextrose, they tend to sit the stomach for a while until the concentration is high enough to be emptied into the gut. This causes a large spike in blood sugar and in turn a large insulin response, which is not what you want while training. HBCD gives a steady supply of glucose as you sip this through your session and can help to keep you training harder for longer.
I will also include essential amino acids (EAA’s) and leucine into the mix. EAA’s for me are better than BCAA’s as they have all nine of the essential aminos needed to form new proteins as well as the protective BCAA’s. I like to take extra leucine too as this is the amino that ‘switches on’ the muscle protein synthesis process. I use instant leucine these days as normal leucine doesn’t mix well and causes a floating scum at the top of the shaker.
There aren’t many weight lifters that don’t enjoy some post-workout food and have been doing so for decades. In the past, there was more emphasis on the efficacy of post-workout nutrition and you’d see people smashing back their PW shakes the second they finished the last rep. These days, with a little more knowledge around pre and intra nutrition, the post-workout shake is less of a necessity. That being said I train for around 120 mins and I train hard. I need to replace the used glycogen stores and top up my proteins too to start the recovery process. Within an hour or so of finishing training, I will go for simple proteins and carbs. It’s usually in the form of some whey isolate and cream of rice again (I love this stuff). Sometimes I switch up the carbs for ‘junk’ carbs like cereal or pastry products, or sometimes even bananas.
The junk and fruit aren’t always the best choice as they are not as optimal as a clean simple carb but they do add some variety. When I’m prepping it’s always cream of rice as it works well on my digestion. 2-3 hours after that meal I’d recommend another whole-foods meal with rice or potatoes, and meat or fish, this will keep you in a nice anabolic phase post-workout.(A big thanks to our #gngang member Alastair Stewart – Owner Fat Al’s Gym )