Pre, Intra, And Post Training Nutrition: Strength And Performance

crossfit-front-squatIn the first edition of this final edition(s) series, I discussed pre, intra and post-training nutrition when fat loss is the primary goal. Today, it’s time to move on to what is the best course of action to take with this nutrition in order to perform at a high level in the gym and to maximize our day-to-day workout strength.

The type of training that I’m referring to is largely endurance training, or explosive strength/power training. Those two methods needs to be addressed in a different fashion than your regular hypertrophy/bodybuilding training. I’ll include high intensity interval training, power training, Olympic lifting, sprints, circuit training, cross fit and sport specific training in this as well.

The common thread in all of this is that being at your best in each session is more important than say, what we discussed in the fat loss nutrition article. That’s not to say that a great performance and high levels of energy and strength aren’t important also for fat loss. It’s more a case regarding fat loss that you accept that you aren’t going to be at your very best in terms of strength and performance. With the above-mentioned pursuits, being at your best is the whole point.

Beginning with pre workout nutrition when performance and strength is the ultimate goal, there are two nutrients that need to be present when training commences – some protein, and an abundance of carbohydrate. Specifically needed are protein that has been digested and is circulating to begin protein synthesis when necessary (the same as in the case of fat loss) and lots of glucose available for fuel. Thirdly, glycogen levels need to be topped up, but that is something that will be dealt with in both post training and the overall nutrition plan. Accomplishing the first two points is as simple as either consuming a protein and carbohydrate mixture in the form of a shake an hour prior to beginning working out, or a protein and img_strengthcarbohydrate mixed meal two hours before hitting the gym floor. This is simply because food will take longer to digest than the liquid version, but I’m sure most of you reading this knew that already.

The most important ingredient is of course glucose. In order to perform at your highest levels, be that strength, endurance, or a combination of the two, you need to have energy available easily. The body simply does not have enough time to manufacture it fast enough from proteins or fats, so the best thing is to have ample amounts of glucose coursing through your veins. This available energy is what will allow you to finish as strongly as is possible on those tough stair sprints, and be at your most explosive for those clean and presses.

Of course muscles that are full of glycogen will also be necessary. Touching on glycogen again, if it’s an event that you are competing in, this is where carb loading comes into play. By depleting and loading you are actually able to super compensate your glycogen levels to higher than what is normal. This of course is only in competitive circumstances, and not day-to-day training, not to mention an entirely separate article (which I will get to shortly, as this is also of benefit to competitive bodybuilders, or fitness models for photo shoots).

As far as intra training nutrition is concerned, having these nutrients available is again a good idea. For optimal availability, drinking branched chain amino acids during your workout will provide your muscles with easily accessed amino acids to begin protein synthesis. Your pre workout nutrition will likely have this covered, but when performance and strength is the goal, it is best not to leave this up to chance. Secondly, mixing those bcaa’s with a fast digesting carb source can’t hurt either. That can be whatever source you prefer.

Lastly, it’s time to 1297344708838_ORIGINALdiscuss post training nutrition in these particular cases. This is probably the one exception where I would say that consuming a post training drink of carbohydrate and fast digesting protein is optimal. With the majority of the types of training that I am referring to, there is going to be considerably less inflammation when contrasted with a bodybuilding type of training where a particular muscle group is bludgeoned to the point of being extremely inflammed. In the case of the strength and performance trainer, the good majority involves a high degree of full body movements, so yes there is an overall inflammatory response, but not one that is anywhere near as localized, or extreme.

Having said that, if you are one who is in this camp, then by all means get your nutrients into you as soon as you have completed your training. The glycogen filling and muscle repair can begin immediately in your case. The resulting insulin spike will of course serve to shuttle those nutrients into the needed muscles faster. This is the whole premise for chocolate milk being considered a great option for a post training recovery option. In these cases I would have to agree.

Within an hour of completing your post nutrition beverage of choice, these trainees need to have a nutritionally complete food meal. All three of the macro-nutrients need to be well represented, and of course the carbohydrate group needs to lead that representation. When training for performance and strength, your entire diet should be based around carbs. As much fun as eating a diet heavy in carbohydrate sounds, as someone who has spent many years doing the opposite it sounds almost burdensome. I’m sure those that live this life would say that my preferred diet looks too bare and restricted. To each his/her own, and there was no judgment intended by my comment, bench-pressPowerLiftersimply an opinion expressed on the vastly different approaches to fitness nutrition that there are available.

Next week I’ll tackle pre, intra, and post training nutrition for those who are most concerned with building muscle. This of course includes the bulking phase that many of us undertake at some point in the year, if for no other reason than to slack a little on our diets for while in the name of getting bigger and stronger. No doubt, it is a fun experience in that respect.

Happy Lifting!

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4 comments for “Pre, Intra, And Post Training Nutrition: Strength And Performance

  1. February 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Great article, Matt – unfortunately, for those of us having Type 2 Diabetes, carb loading is out of the question, as is trying to force a lot of glucose into muscles that have ‘tired’ insulin receptors. But it seems the body CAN compensate – with fewer carbs than most have, we can still stay with it for a heavy 2-3 hour workout, but we have to accept that our gains are easier in strength than in size. Any suggestions?

    • February 20, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Doug, I’m only suggesting carb loading for sports or cross fit competition purposes, or for ‘filling up’ for a bodybuilding competition or a photo shoot. I personally don’t use carbs around training as they lower testosterone levels, and I happily trade any strength or performance in favor of having a higher anabolic response. If what you are doing works for you, I don’t think you need to change it at all.

      If increasing your energy levels during training is something you want to do, bcaa’s readily convert to glucose(not as fast as carbs of course, but still pretty quick), so using them pre and intra may be something you want to try.

  2. February 19, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Good stuff as always Matt. This essentially looks like what I was doing when I was in my bulk phase, so I’m definitely curious what you’ll have to say about that next week!

    • February 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks Colin. I wrote that one today actually and I look forward to sharing it!

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