Before and During Workout Nutrition

This phase should start 10-30 minutes before the workout and continue through the entirety of the workout.

I would say from experience that the benefits of nutrition during the workout is understood by very few people. Until recently, it is not something that I have done. For those of you that drink some kind of sports drink during your workout (Gatorade, Powerade, etc), you are already consuming about half of the nutrients you should.

Carbohydrates are important during exercise to help extend endurance and also keep the immune system from being suppressed. High glycemic carbs, like sucrose and glucose (some times listed as dextrose), are best during exercise for the same reasons they are best for pre exercise.

Protein works hand in hand with carbs to increase blood insulin levels higher than either would do alone. Protein has also been shown to increase exercise endurance. Consuming protein during strenuous exercise provides the body something to snack on instead of breaking down the protein in your muscle, along with increasing protein synthesis once the workout is over. Whey protein is preferred as it breaks down more quickly and provides essential amino acids like leucine and glutamine that are used considerably during exercise.

Another function of nutrition during a workout is it limits the suppression of the immune system. Immune function is heightened during moderate intensity exercise, but is suppressed with strenuous exercise, leaving the body at an increased risk of infection.

Ideal Nutrient Composition from Nutrient Timing

Carbohydrates 20-26 grams

Whey Protein 5-6 grams

Leucine 1 gram

Vitamin C 30-120mg

Vitamin E 20-60 IU

Sodium 100-250 mg

Potassium 60-100 mg

Magnesium 60-120 mg

Post Workout (Within 45 minutes)

Research at Vanderbilt University has shown that muscle glucose uptake is 3-4 times faster immediately after a workout as opposed to 3 hours after a workout. protein synthesis and amino acid uptake is also 3 times greater post resistance training as compared to someone that hasn’t exercised. With the body primed to digest and replace the nutrients used during exercise, it would be foolish and counterproductive not to give your body the fuel it needs.

Ideal Nutrient Composition from Nutrient Timing

Carbohydrates (High Glycemic) 40-50 grams

Whey Protein 13-15 grams

Leucine 1-2 grams

Glutamine 1-2 grams

Rest of the Day 

This will be broken up into two segments. The first will be up to 4 hours post exercise, and the second segment will be the rest of the 24 hours.

After consuming the proper nutrients within the 45 minutes post workout, it is important to ingest another helping of carbs and protein within 3 hours of the post workout meal to make sure the hormones stay at an elevated level. If nothing is consumed, the hormones (mainly insulin) will go back down to resting levels.

Since the insulin pump has already been primed by the post workout meal, the same carb to protein ratio (3:1) is not necessary to maintain the heightened level of insulin. Instead, a ratio of 1 gram of carb to 5-8 grams of protein is appropriate. This ratio will help ensure the insulin pump is maintained at its most efficient levels while not providing too many carbs where the carbs are converted to fat.

A high protein snack or supplement is recommended during the 16-18 hours post workout. This will deliver high amounts of amino acids which will stimulate protein synthesis. A mix of whey and casein protein is suggested so the protein synthesis will react quickly to the whey and maintain because the casein breaks down at a slower rate.

Ideal Nutrient Composition from Nutrient Timing

Carbohydrates (High Glycemic) 2-4 g

Whey Protein 14 g

Casein Protein 2 g

Leucine 3 g

Glutamine 1 g


Lose the idea of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and start planning your meals around your workout. Not only will this help improve the quality of your workouts, it will also keep you from eating the wrong thing at the wrong time (i.e. loads of pasta at dinner).

Make sure you are in a positive caloric balance, especially if you are trying to gain weight. It is imperative for maximal muscle repair and growth. The caloric balance will vary on your goal.


Ivy, J. & Portman, R. (2004). Nutrient timing: the future of sports nutrition. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publication.


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