What to eat before, during and after training

What to eat before, during and after training

What should I eat before my workouts or competitions? 

And then?  

These questions are done to us all over and over again and we never get to be sure of doing it right.

It is important, yes, but perhaps we forget that taking care of food outside of these moments is even more important.

Still, it is important to establish correct nutritional guidelines at that time, which will help us to perform at the highest level.

We must be clear that our body responds to food differently after a training session or competition than other times of our day to day. But it is important to note that when establishing guidelines, they should take into account the personal circumstances of each sport and its objectives. There are no universal rules that are worth for everyone.

It is not the same to propose a nutritional strategy to prepare you for a training session, to recover from it, or to compete. In addition your strategy should also be different if the goal of the training session is for example gain muscle or if it is losing fat.

As you can see, the first thing is to clearly establish each one of the objectives.

Before training

If we focus on the moments before a training session, and according to the latest studies, it seems that a strategy of the type train low, compete high could be interesting.

Training with a low level of glycogen can cause beneficial adaptations for your body. So it might seem that the best strategy before a training session could be to eat anything.

And this is so, but with nuances.

Glycogen reserves are in the muscles (75%) and the liver (25%), but both do not behave the same. While hepatic glycogen flows into the bloodstream to be distributed where our body needs it, muscle glycogen is stored for the sole use of the muscles.

Therefore, if we come to a training session with the low level of glycogen, our muscles will continue to have enough energy to carry it out smoothly.

And that benefits us?

Among other things we provoke our body to become more efficient in the use of glycogen, which is good for example for endurance athletes.

But it’s not worth every case. Low-glucose training has some drawbacks as a lower level of immune system defenses, muscle mass catabolism, etc. This is why it is recommended a previous protein intake because it also does not affect the process of adaptation to the training and oxidation of fats.

Branched amino acids (BCAA)

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This strategy has its usefulness but we must not exceed it in its application. Training with low reserves of glycogen generates a stress in the body that generates positive adaptations but if we constantly maintain a diet low in carbohydrates or ketogenic the result is no longer positive. Also if the goal was to gain muscle, it would be more advisable to train with more muscle glycogen.

Before a competition

There is no doubt that before a competition we must have filled our glycogen reserves well. Only then will we be able to perform at the highest level.

Usually, strategies of supercompensation of reserves of muscle glycogen are usually used. There are several techniques, such as Astrand, Sherman/Costill and/or Fairchild/Fournier techniques.

It consists in optimizing the storage of glycogen in the muscle before physical exercise by a previous total discharge of glycogen, which makes the storage greater. When the body notes that glycogen reserves have been depleted, it sets up mechanisms to recover this glycogen and even a small amount of extra to be used if necessary.

Let us say that the organism is deceived in a certain way, so that it will prevent it from happening again in the future. This technique is indicated mainly in sports with a duration of more than 1 hour and a half, because having a prolonged duration we will need great energy to maintain a suitable performance.

These strategies recommend minimizing carbohydrate intake for approximately 3 days by maintaining training and then increasing your intake for another three with very little training volume. But it seems that it can generate certain gastrointestinal problems. Today it has been bought that it is sufficient only 24-48 hours of recharge with products of high glycemic index (rice, potatoes, etc.).

If we focus on resistance athletes a glycogen refill a few hours before the race can be beneficial. But we mustn’t overdo it. If our tanks are full of glycogen, and we add more, we will keep the insulin high by inhibiting the burning of fat, the main source of energy, so that our body will depend more on the CHO and we can fatigue before. In these cases, a high-fat meal a few hours before competing can also be beneficial.

During training or competition

According to recent studies, the excessive use of the famous gels and sports drinks dominated by commercial interests and with high rate of CHO seems to have negative effects such as gastrointestinal problems, injuries, caries, etc.

Due to the logistics of the competition we can not discard the use of this type of products, but them with products with good quality CHO. Real food like nuts, fruits, tubers, carrots, etc.

For competition situations or training sessions where logistics send, we present some packs of products that we have had the opportunity to try:

Pack Half Marathon

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As for the isotonic drinks, it is true that they have their usefulness for athletes who train and compete in activities of resistance of several hours, but their consumption is extended to any practitioner and activity, being able to see in any gym like Athletes without knowing are consuming more calories with sports drinks than they are spending. In many cases it is not really necessary.

An example of a really interesting isotonic beverage is coconut water, which contains electrolytes (such as potassium and magnesium), a little sugar and vitamins. A natural moisturizer, low in calories, in fat and makes digestion easier.

Coconut water (product 100% organic)

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After training or competing

Our training sessions cause an expense of glycogen and fat and also cause muscle catabolism or protein destruction. In this way we have to be clear that our goal after a training session must be to recover our stockpiles of glycogen, stop the destruction of proteins and build new ones.

So we should give more importance to eating after training than what we eat before.


After intensive training sessions it is advisable to replenish the glycogen and minimize muscle catabolism.

The recommended amount would be between 0.6 and 0.8 grams of carbohydrate per kilo of body weight, around 40-60% of your daily carbohydrates.

We must mix glucose and fructose (to a lesser extent). Despite being both monosaccharides with the same chemical composition have a different structure and while glucose is eaten and absorbed by the bloodstream and makes its way to the liver where it breaks into energy that is supplied to the whole body. By stimulating insulin, fructose does not stimulate this hormone, it is eaten and absorbed but it releases its energy slower than glucose.

By not activating the insulin hormone, the fructose makes the brain not feel “satiated” and according to several studies could encourage subsequent consumption of highly caloric products.

Products such as rice, cooked potatoes, sweet potato, etc. They could provide between 20-30 grams of starch per 100 grams. Fruits such as bananas will give us the necessary fructose to fill our hepatic glycogen.


Studies point out that for most training sessions 20-30 grams is the optimal level to maximize protein synthesis.

A protein shake could bring this amount, which is suitable for whey protein, or also a portion of meat and/or fish of 100-150 grams.

The study supports this supplement which is made up of different types of proteins, presents a perfect amino acid distribution and excellent bioavailability when combining different absorption rates.

 Whey protein

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An ideal supplement for after our sessions and if you do not have a good hand to have a little whole milk, the natural product more similar and with a good distribution of macronutrients (carbohydrates 40%;) Proteins 30%; Fat 30%, approximate values).

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We will consider in any case if we have taken some protein before training, as the amino acids will still be present in our body, and therefore reduce the amount of protein post-train.

Relationship between CHO and protein

There is a relationship between the CHO that helps the recharge of glycogen and protein that helps us reduce muscle catabolism, which could adequately be between 1:2 to 1:4 which we will select depending on the type of intensity of the training session and the Need to recharge a greater or lesser amount or less glycogen.

Similarly, if we are one of those who have to resort to logistical preparations, products such as recuperating shakes that already combine proportions of CHO and protein can be a solution.

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We all try to avoid fat in our meals, but we should nuance that different types of fat, such as intramuscular fat which is good for our performance especially for endurance sports.

Although at first we should focus on the intake of CHO and protein, then it could be good to incorporate some quality fat (nuts, avocado, etc.)


Apart from everything discussed above we should not forget that the exercise also generates inflammation and oxidative stress. The intake of supplements or natural products with antioxidants could also be beneficial.

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However, a combination of Cho + protein after training (30-60 grams of Cho + 20-30 grams of protein) will be ideal for our post-enter, reducing this amount if previously we have eaten pre-training.

Other supplements


Creatine is an organic nitrogenous acid, which is found naturally in vertebrates, and helps the supply of energy to all cells of our organism, stressing especially the muscles.

Creatine is a derivative of amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine. The body is basically manufactured in organs such as the liver, pancreas and kidneys, although it can also be obtained through food such as meat or fish, or by acquiring nutritional supplements in stores.

Creatine has four main functions in the human body:

  • Regeneration: Activates muscle mass, by for better physical performance.
  • Transportation: It fulfils the function of carrying the cells that produces the muscle
  • Balance: Maintains the PH of the muscular system
  • Regulation: It has the balanced energy having the glucose as a component.

Not in vain is the nutritional supplement most come in the world.

With a moderate and adequate use of creatine next to exercise will get (without ejercicicio the body expels and only get the kidneys to overwork), increase our strength, resistance, have a faster muscle recovery,

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Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a somewhat different vitamin because it is received in various ways, through feeding (10%) and by exposing the skin to sunlight (UVB rays) (90%).

Numerous studies have shown that about 80-90% of people in industrialized countries have a mild or moderate lack of vitamin D related to our current lifestyle.

From here, the importance of training outdoors and supplementing in some degree in the winter months

A true protective shield of the body thanks to its multiple functions in the organism; Formation of bones, teeth and joints, control of the supply of calcium in the intestine, maintain healthy immune system and prevent infections, synthesis of endogenous antibiotics, maintain muscles in their optimal functioning, Standard cell division, reduction of inflammation in the body, hormonal balance, reduction of oxidative stress, optimal signal transmission between cells, sleep quality, etc.

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When to take

According to some studies the protein synthesis seems to be higher in the moments after the training but there seems to be much difference in the next three hours. The body maintains protein synthesis for 24 to 48 hours, so it is more important the “as” as “when” taking protein.

Unless we need to replenish the reservation quickly, if we have for example a new competition in a short time, we can adopt a more moderate strategy.

It might also be advisable to include from time to time certain variability. If after a training session with previous fasting you wait a few hours before eating, the activity of the growth hormone that has been raised on the occasion of the exercise remains elevated and helps to mobilize more fat. A session with this strategy every 3 or 4 training sessions can be convenient.

Final recommendations

  • You can train with low glycogen, but with the necessary to cope with the intensity of your training sessions. Low reserves but not empty. If you feel weak before the session eat a piece of fruit 30 or 40 minutes before.
  • In practice you can do fasting in low intensity and low or moderate duration, long duration sessions without consuming CHO during the same or at least avoid it until very advanced session, and/or perform double session, one fasting and another with low Load of glycogen among other options.
  • If your sessions have the goal of muscular construction you should face it with the highest glycogen.
  • If you have a training session where you must or want to give to the maximum (control test, key sessions, etc.), fill in your reservations beforehand.
  • Before a competition fills your bookings to the fullest, but it is enough to do the last 24-48 hours before the competition.
  • Do not keep ketogenic or low carb diets in time to prevent it from affecting your performance and causing injury. You must in this case include recharge periods of CHO punctually.
  • If the goal of your session is fat loss, do not take the post workout once in a while or at least wait 1-2 hours before your next meal.
  • It is true that there is a post training period where it is more convenient to replenish our reservations, but do not obsess with doing nothing but get out of the shower. This period is broader than we thought.
  • It includes variability in your ingestions, training occasionally with more glycogen than normal and in other cases avoids the ingestion post training.
  • The strategy of fasting and skipping the post training food is quite stressful for your body. If you are not adapted to this type of strategy previously, see little by little experimenting.

While the nutritional timing is important, remember that the “that” you eat throughout the day, what training you do and what you take rest is really relevant.