Key Points Covered
- First thing you want to do is have a meal 2-3 hours before your session. Ideally it is relatively high in carbs and easily digestible. Low/moderate fat and fibre (to make it easier to digest).
- Optional, but adding a >20-40g protein (lower end for smaller people, upper end for larger people) to this meal can also potentially be a good idea. You want a decent serving of protein within 3-5 hours around the time of your workout, so doing this can make post-workout protein intake less urgent.
- If you have a lot of protein pre-workout, having protein post-workout protein becomes less important.
- 1 hour before the session, having a snack that is 15-30g of easily digestable carbs can help too, so this could be something like a piece of fruit, muesli bar, toast, rice cakes or yoghurt.
- The timing of the pre-workout meal/snack are individual. Some people prefer them closer/later. The goal is to feel good.
- Do not sacrifice sleep for the meal. If you train in the morning, use common sense and avoid taking the above so literally that you wake up hours early just to get it in. In that case, just having the snack should be fine.
- Fasted training is fine, it just is not optimal for performance. You would be better of training fasted than not training at all. There are also some cases where it makes sense to intentionally train fasted, but they are outlier situations.
- BCAAs and EAAs are not necessary if you get enough total protein each day and distribute it across the day.
- Intra-workout carbs are likely not necessary for those who lift weights, if you had the pre-workout nutrition sorted out. It is a different story for endurance athletes, but that is a discussion for another day.
- With the two above points – if they make you feel good, feel free to do them. Plenty of people are aware that BCAAs are not really helping them build muscle or anything, but still feel better during long sessions when they have them. Call it placebo or whatever – but if something makes you feel good, that is worth paying attention to.
- Glycogen stores are not overly relevant for lifters, but they kind of are. See relevent links/resources section below for more on this.
- Anabolic window is 3-5 hours around training. If you haven’t had protein pre-workout, it is important to have post workout.
- The amount of protein you would want is >0.4g/kg in the meal. So for somebody who was 100kg, that would be >40g, as an example. This is to maximise muscle protein synthesis.
- Ideally make sure it has >2-3g of leucine as well.
- Total daily intake matters more. Aiming for 1.6-2.2g/kg/day protein is more important than just focusing on what maximises muscle protein synthesis in a single sitting.
- Carbs post-workout do not really enhance muscle protein synthesis further if you have consumed enough protein. But if you are training multiple times in a day, it is likely a good idea to have a decent amount of high-GI carbs directly post-workout to maximise glycogen resynthesis in prep for the next session.
- Hydration is easy. Drink based on thirst and monitor the colour of your urine and keep that an appropriate colour. Also avoid losing >2% of body weight during training sessions, since that level of dehydration reduces performance.
Glycogen and Performance for Lifters
- MacDougall et al – 3 sets of curls to failure led to a 24% decrease in glycogen.
- Robergs et al – 6 sets of 12RM leg extensions to failure resulted in a 38% decrease in total glycogen, mostly from type II fibres (which means those fibres were depleted far more than 38%). It therefore stands to reason that typical higher volume bodybuilding-style workouts involving multiple exercises and sets for the same muscle group would deplete the majority of local glycogen stores.
- Stronger by Science have a great article discussing glycogen and lifters and how much it matters.
Protein and Anabolic Window
- Aragon et al – Anabolic window being 3-5 hours around the workout, and aiming for at least 04.g/kg protein in that window.
- Schoenfeld et al – How much protein can the body absorb in a single sitting? Basic summary is that you should aim for 1.6-2.2g/kg of protein per day, coming from at least 4 meals with at least 0.4g/kg protein.
- With the above point, the protein target is slightly lower if you have a lot of body fat. If you are exceptionally lean, the numbers are slightly higher.