If you have to train in the evening after a long day of work, you’ll get better results from planning your diet to help you sustain optimal energy, mental focus, and drive. Your post-workout nutrition is also key to this equation since evening training requires a special focus on recovery so that you can quickly clear cortisol for restful sleep. This article will provide the top 10 nutrition tips to maximize your evening workouts.
#1: Eat Protein For Breakfast
Eating high-quality protein foods such as beef, chicken, turkey, or salmon at breakfast is an investment that you’ll benefit from at the end of the day. These foods provide an array of amino acids that stimulate the energizing chemical messengers dopamine and acetylcholine to provide that extra focus and power to achieve PRs and outperform your competitors.
#2: Don’t Train On An Empty Stomach
Relying on your lunch for post-work energy is not a great idea. This is just as bad as fasted training! Not only will you improve muscle building, but research shows that eating a slow-digesting meal prior to exercise increases fat burning and raises excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the amount that the metabolism is elevated after exercise. EPOC is considered the true indicator of the value of exercise for body composition.
#3: Eat A Solid, High-Protein Meal Prior To Training
Contrary to the popular belief that liquid carbs are the best pre-workout meal, better results tend to come from eating a solid high-protein, mixed meal containing low-glycemic carbs, and healthy fat sometime in the two hours prior to your workout. Instead of relying on simple carbs for “energy,” a meal of complex carbs and protein can increase the amount of fat your body burns during training, while boosting work capacity and performance.
#4: Avoid High-Saturated Fat Foods Pre-Workout
Steer clear of foods high in saturated fat pre-workout because this type of fat will hinder the dilation of blood vessels for up to four hours after eating. For example, a study found that after participants ate a high-fat meal from eggs, hash browns, and sausage, blood flow dropped by more than 50 percent. A small amount of saturated fat, such as the quantity naturally occurring in a hardboiled egg or lean meat, isn’t a problem.
#5: Support Blood Flow With Fish Oil
Compared to saturated fat, healthy fats (fish oil and monounsaturated) can boost workout performance by improving blood flow and insulin health. For example, fish oil has been shown to increase vasodilation, thereby lowering blood pressure. It also helps get the blood to the muscles during training, while simultaneously improving insulin sensitivity and gene activity.
#6: Minimize Cortisol With Green or Black Tea
We can all use a little pick-me-up prior to evening training. Green or black tea can give you that extra edge, while minimizing the cortisol response to training. One study found that taking a dose of black tea resulted in less DOMS muscle soreness and lower cortisol response to a sprint workout to exhaustion compared to a placebo. A second study showed that taking a green tea extract prior to a stressful exercise test produced both lower cortisol and decreased markers of inflammation.
#7: Take Vitamin C Post-Workout To Help Clear Cortisol
Supplementing with up to 1 gram of vitamin C has a powerful effect on reducing both physical and mental stress, likely because it helps the body metabolize cortisol. It also decreases inflammatory markers that send the body’s immune system into overdrive, which can delay recovery and disrupt sleep.
#8: Favor White Meat Over Dark Meat For Dinner
High-quality protein is key after training, but be sure to get proteins that will calm you and set you up for the ultimate recovery: sleep. Avoid red meats in favor of white meats such as chicken, turkey, and white fish. All of these contain the amino acid tryptophan, which will increase levels of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin to get you ready for bed.
#9: Have Quality Carbs At Dinner
A common mistake is to “reward” yourself for a hard workout with hyperpalatable refined carbs. This often leads to overeating and doesn’t supply the antioxidants your body needs to start the recovery process. Still, post-workout is the perfect time to eat high-quality complex carbs (starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, heirloom grains, dark-colored fruit, or a piece of chocolate) because the body is super insulin sensitive. Additionally, carbs will help lower cortisol and have a calming effect on the body.
#10: Calm The CNS With Magnesium & Taurine
Called the anti-stress mineral, magnesium has a powerful calming effect on the Central Nervous System, decreasing sympathetic nervous activity and lowering heart rate to allow you to relax. Taurine is an amino acid with antioxidant properties that helps fight inflammation and lower cortisol for a faster recovery and restful sleep.