This is actually called nutrient timing in the hallowed halls of medicine. When I initially started looking into this, I found a number of sources calling it bunk, and just as many others touting it earnestly. I wanted to get to the truth of the matter.
To understand the rationale for pre and post workout food and drinks, one must understand the concepts of catabolism and anabolism. These are the two basic metabolic modes that the body can be in.
Catabolism is the state of breaking down.
Make no mistake, all exercise is, by design, a teardown or at least a strain, on body parts. What makes exercise more than just trauma is that it is done in such a way to be just enough strain to stimulate new growth, or anabolism. Moreover, it is balanced between upper and lower body, as well as between flexor and extensor muscle systems of the body. Exercise is a well designed program of strategic strains on the body so as to stimulate a growth and strengthening of the systems.
Anabolism is a state of building up that one will hopefully achieve in the aftermath of exercise.
Clearly this state of anabolism is resource requiring, even resource intensive. We need certain amounts of water, carbohydrates and fats for energy, and protein to build body parts.
Review of the literature reveals a shortage of good studies on the effectiveness of pre and post exercise supplements. However a number of general insights can be gained.
- Gains after exercise are greater when exercise is in initiated in a non fasting state.
- A meal should not be closer than 1.5 to 2 hours before a workout.
- The so called post exercise window when one can benefit from this supplementation is not as small nor as soon as was previously believed.
- To maximize anabolic effect, pre and post meals should be separated by no more than 4 hours.
- Good nutrition spread throughout the day also supports continued anabolism.
- The post exercise interval is more important than the pre-exercise interval, but supplements at both times appears to confer some benefit in optimal anabolic gain and have little risk.
- Carbohydrate is needed as well in the post exercise interval in order to replace glycogen, but the carbohydrate need is met by meeting the normal daily requirement for carbohydrate distributed throughout the day.
- Protein supplementation pre and post workout should be about 0.5 g/kg of Lean body mass (LBM) For example, a 50 kg person would consume 25g of protein a couple hours before a workout and a couple of hours after a workout.
- Pre and post exercise supplements seem to confer a greater percentage gain in the untrained versus the already trained.
- Pre and post workout supplements need not be expensive or prepackaged. Protein powder in milk will do nicely.
Good for you if you are interested in both fitness and nutrition. Now you can leverage them both for some serious gains. Ladies, remember, muscles do not make you look big. They make you look toned and sleek. And they burn more calories than fat. Best yet, they let you do fun things like carry backpacks, ride horses and play sports.