What you eat just before and after your workouts is arguably the most important part of your nutrition plan. Without proper nutrition before exercising, you risk starving your muscles and stunting any potential growth, or simply crashing partway through your workout; poor nutrition post-workout can hinder muscle gains and negatively impact your overall health if certain nutrients aren’t replenished.

Before working out, carbohydrates are crucial. The word “carbs” may bring up some negative associations, but don’t believe the myths! If you’re active, you absolutely need complex carbohydrates, like whole-wheat grains and oats, to fuel your muscles. You also want to focus on protein, ideally high-quality protein like whey, before working out. Amino acids like L-arginine are also crucial for maximizing workout benefits.

Once you finish your workout, you have a window of approximately 30 minutes where your body needs its nutrient stores replenished to start its recovery process--so plan ahead! The most important nutrient at this time is protein, which again should come from high-quality sources like whey or casein. Also, amino acids are also helpful post-workout as a recovery fuel. If you’re looking to bulk up, some simple carbs here may be helpful to get your blood sugar back up, but if you’re looking to tone up, you’re probably better off skipping these extra calories.

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