Our body type dictates how we should put a balanced meal together, and our fitness goals have significant influence, as well. Here, our very own Global Head of Yoga & Pilates and Precision Nutrition certified Mark Seeto, breaks down an easy guide for your body type, before and after a workout.
I remember preparing for my first short biathlon. A 5km run and 1km ocean swim at Manly in Sydney.
I was in the midst of studying my certificate 4 in fitness to become a Personal Trainer and was hounding (with excitement) one of my facilitators about what I should eat before, during and after this biathlon. Knowing my natural propensity towards endurance, his answer was, "Mark, you will finish this race in less than an hour. Just eat a well-balanced meal 2 hours before, and within 1-2 hours after the race and you’ll be fine. Oh and don’t eat anything that will make you feel sick."
Was that it? Not exactly what I was hoping for. I thought we’d be diving into graphs, reports and statistics and discuss sports supplements and energy gels. But no, just eat well before and after, and don’t eat a can of sardines before the race? Simple. No offence to those who eat sardines.
In no way am I suggesting that we should all be able to run 5km and then dive into the ocean and swim for a 1km with ease. But for most of us, we’re training for general health, to look and feel good and in most cases training for 45-60 minutes, 1-3 days a week. So in general, eat a well balanced diet of protein, carbs and fats before and after your workout, and you should have the energy to train at your best, and the nutrients needed to recover optimally. And remember these three things:
- Eat minimally processed foods
- Ensure your portions are the right size and the right amounts (see below)
- Eat slowly, until satisfied
But, like me, a lot of us like to go deeper. So here’s more info for you that I’ve taken from my certification with Precision Nutrition.
Our body type dictates how we should put a balanced meal together, and our fitness goals have significant influence as well. But I want to keep this article as concise as possible and specific to workout nutrition. So we’ll keep it general for today and focus on body type. We’ll look at how to put a meal together that should be eaten 1-2 hours before and after your workout.
You’ll see that instead of using calories as a measure, we use our hands. Palms, fists, cupped hands and thumbs. Which is a much easier way to measure your macronutrients, but also specific to your size. A bigger person will have bigger palms for example, and therefore have a larger protein portion.
Ectomorphs are usually lean, have smaller frames and thin limbs. Think marathon runners. They tolerate carbs well and have fast metabolisms. They are usually exercising to increase or maintain their muscle mass or training for endurance.
|Food Type||Male||Female |
|Protein||2 palms ||1 palm |
|Vegetables ||2 fists ||1 fist |
|Carbs ||3 cupped handfuls ||2 cupped handfuls |
|Fats ||1 thumb ||1/2 thumb |
Mesomorphs have medium frames, athletic looking and gain muscle and stay lean easier than the other two body types. Think gymnasts. They are usually looking to optimise their body composition or training for sport.
|Food Type||Male ||Female |
|Protein || 2 palms||1 palm |
|Vegetables ||2 fists ||1 fist |
|Carbs ||2 cupped handfuls ||1 cupped handful |
|Fats ||2 thumbs ||1 thumb |
Endomorphs are larger in size and heavier than the other two types. They have slower metabolisms and don’t tolerate carbs as well. Think rugby union players. They are usually looking to build on their strength and lose fat.
| Food Type||Male ||Female |
|Protein ||2 palms ||1 palm |
|Vegetables ||2 fists ||1 fist |
|Carbs ||1 cupped handful ||1/2 cupped handful |
|Fats ||3 thumbs ||2 thumbs |
What about during exercise, you ask? For most regular exercisers or those training for fat loss, water is going to be your best bet, especially for workout sessions 30-60 minutes long.
But if we have some more specific goals, then maybe we can spice it up. For us ectomorphs, if we are training to gain muscle or going for a long run (2hrs+) then we could have a protein (15 grams) and carb drink (30-45 grams) during exercise. Similarly, for mesomorphs. But if you’re a mesomorph looking to gain muscle you could also add an essential amino acid drink (5-15 grams). For endomorphs, water is your jam. Stay hydrated.
Want to go a littler further? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Before your workout
We want to feel prepared and ready to train at our best, but we also want to ensure we are preserving our gains and aiding our recovery. So, let’s have a look at what proteins, carbs and fats can do for us pre workout.
- Helps maintain and increase muscle mass
- Improves muscle recovery
- Boosts muscle performance.
- Fuels your body
- Preserves muscle and liver glycogen which tells your body you’re full
- Stimulates the release of insulin. Combined with protein, this helps protein production and prevents protein breakdown.
- Fats are neutral for performance levels, meaning they will have no effect on your output
- They help to maintain your blood glucose and insulin levels, keeping you even keeled
- They provide vitamins and minerals.
Which then begs the question; should I eat before working out? If you can have a balanced meal as we’ve seen above, 2 hours before training, then you’re in a good place. Eating a full meal within 2 hours of your session might not feel the best, but if you can stomach it, then go for it. And what if you train first thing in the morning? Then maybe a shake with some protein (whey), carbs (berries/banana), fat (little avo) and a handful of spinach on water. That’s going to be much more conducive to a 5am start.
But if you’re like me, I prefer to train early on an empty stomach, then stick to that. Just make sure you eat a well-balanced meal as soon as you can. Eat within an hour of your workout, instead of the recommended 1-2 hour window.
During your workout
As discussed earlier, generally if you’re training for less than 2 hours, then staying hydrated with water is all you need. With the caveat that your pre and post workout nutrition is on point. But there are a few exceptions;
- Endurance athletes training for long, intense periods, or multiple sessions per day, then protein and carbs during your session will help to reduce muscle breakdown and provide fuel for performance. Note; avoid fats because they can be more difficult to digest
- If you’re training in the heat and sweating a lot, then an electrolyte drink will help maintain your hydration and aid in recovery
- If you’re training for muscle mass, then a carb and protein drink and essential amino acid drink may help improve results
- High end sports players may get some benefits from sipping sports drinks during competition
After your workout
This is why we train, right? So we can eat all the foods afterwards…. Well, not really. Our post workout nutrition is super important in order to recover, rehydrate, refuel, build muscle and to ensure we are ready to do it all again. Let’s have a look at what proteins, carbs and fats can do for us post workout.
- Reduces protein breakdown and stimulates protein production
- Can reduce markers of muscle damage, helping you to maintain gains and recover faster
- Floods body with amino acids, which boost muscle gaining capabilities
- Helps with recovery
- Helps increase muscle retention and growth
- Replenishes glycogen levels
- Help to maintain your blood glucose and insulin levels
- They provide vitamins and minerals
- Possibly help increase protein uptake
We know our workout nutrition is important and if the discipline that comes with a very structured nutrition timing schedule helps you to stay on track, then go for it! But otherwise, lets ensure that our meals throughout the whole day are balanced and nutritious, and prepared in the context of who we are and what we do. I think most of us have enough on our plate (mind the pun) to be adding another complex process to our already hectic busy days.
Here are my final take aways (again, mind the pun):
- Always aim for fresh whole foods
- Remember how to create a well balance plate of food using your hand – Protein (palm), carbs (cupped hands), fats (thumbs), veggies (fists)
- For most of us, eating a whole food balanced meal 1-2 hours before and after your workout is by far the best way to tackle workout nutrition
- But keep in mind that most recent research shows that a balanced intake of protein and carbs over the day is much more beneficial than any specific nutrition timing
- Drink water, stay hydrated
- Eat slowly until satisfied
- Enjoy your food.
All bodies are different and it is important to understand that while our trainers offering nutrition guidance have completed the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification, the information provided is general in nature and should not be used to treat or diagnose any medical or health condition, food intolerance or allergy. Please consult with your doctor before undertaking any nutrition or diet plan. Any information provided by our trainers should not replace the Australian government dietary guidelines on nutrition or any specific medical advice you have received.
If you have any questions about how to optimise your training, be sure to reach out to us today! We can get you started on your own health and wellness journey.