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What’s More Important? Pre or Post Workout Fuel?

….the answer? BOTH! What you put into your body before a WOD is just as important and vital as what goes into it after one. We tend to put a little more emphasis on ‘after’ and it’s for good reason: optimal recovery. However, what we eat and drink beforehand also greatly influences the recovery process!

So let’s get down to the facts!

Those grueling twenty-minute AMRAPs and relenting MetCons put our bodies under A LOT of stress. From head to toe, muscles, nerves, and joints are being pushed to their limit and relying on precious energy stores to keep them rocking through the entire workout so you don’t hit a wall right in the middle of it. Sure, you can down an energy drink or a pre-WOD shake (many of us do and there’s nothing wrong with that!) before it’s ‘go’ time and call it a day, but you shouldn’t solely rely on those to get you through it.

So…what then will help us crush tomorrow’s WOD? Well, it comes down to four main components: hydration, nutrition, timing, and rest.

Staying hydrated well before stepping foot into the gym is as essential as hydrating during and post-workout. If you’ve already drunk 2-3 cups of water before, then you’re a hydrating superstar. It will help you when those first droplets of sweat begin to form during the warmup. However, as the intensity increases, be sure you hit up the water bottle every 10-15 mins or so or as you feel you need. You have to put it back but you’ve sweated out.

Now, let’s talk about how nutrition plays a role in a WOD performance. You can’t eat a big bowl of sugary cereal and expect to hit PRs left and right or crush some burpee box jumps. I’ll be the first to tell you that it won’t happen. In fact, you’d probably crash…and crash quick. The body needs foods that are nutrient-dense to help sustain its energy. It needs macros (fats, carbs, and protein) for a reason. But it’s all about getting the RIGHT kind of each. Carbs and (good) fats are our main sources of energy. When carbs are broken down and become glucose, they enter our muscle cells and give them the energy to perform at their highest capacity. Good fats provide us with energy as well as help protect our heart and brain health and lower cholesterol.

Our pre-workout AND post-workout snacks should have protein in there too. We know that protein is what makes our muscles grow and optimize all the lifts we perform. When we lift, we create small tears in our muscle fibers. It’s just the name of the game. Ensuring we are getting adequate amounts of protein throughout the day aids their recovery process and allows them to get bigger and stronger than they were before. We all want those gains, right?!

The ideal window to eat a pre-workout snack or meal is anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours before crunch time. You may have to do some experimenting with this window to see what works best for you. The key here is to make sure you give your body time to digest and store all those nutrients and energy. You don’t want to still feel overly full right before you start because it’ll slow you down and quite possibly give you a stomachache.

When the WOD is over, and you’ve finally picked yourself up off the floor and carry on with your day, a snack or shake rich in carbs and protein is essential within the first hour or so of post-workout. It helps to ‘speed’ up the recovery process. When we don’t eat after a workout, our blood sugar can drop to unsafe levels and we can feel lethargic and sluggish. Remember, we must replenish the energy we used to get us through that intense session. The sooner after a WOD, the better. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS be sure to drink enough water. Then there’s making sure you’re getting adequate rest and sleep.

It’s always important to listen to your body. If you feel like you’re just trudging along with the workout and not giving it all you can, it’s probably because it needs more rest, whether it be in the form of a few hours more of sleep or a day off from intense exercise altogether. The body cannot recover and optimize all the progress it made if it doesn’t rest and it’ll also put you at risk for injury. We can’t expect ourselves to perform our professional and personal responsibilities at 150% if we’re running on empty and therefore we can’t expect our bodies to do the same during a workout. 7-8 hours of sleep every night is the sweet zone; it’s just the right amount of rest to allow your body and mind to recover from the nonstop movement of the day.

So, be sure to fuel up right before and after (utilize the internet! There are so many ideas for delicious and nutritious pre and post-workout snacks/meals), drink plenty of water, and get some good night’s sleep!

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