pre- and postworkout nutrition, calculating protein intake and adding simple carbs

Your nutrition problems solved; This month: pre- and postworkout nutrition, calculating protein intake and adding simple carbs

Q | Over the years, I’ve noticed a change in your pre- and postworkout nutrition recommendations. Why is that, and what should I take?

A | FLEX stays on top of current bodybuilding nutrition research, and as it evolves, so do our recommendations. Years ago, sports and nutrition scientists thought athletes should train on an empty stomach because that hormonal environment was believed to create the best condition for muscle growth. Although that is still the case, recent studies have demonstrated that the benefits of recovery nutrition supersede the benefits of this anabolic state. Ideal recovery nutrition must start an hour or two before the completion of a workout, meaning the bodybuilder must begin postworkout recovery prior to training.

This isn’t illogical: depending on the source, most proteins take a few hours to reach your system. By providing your body with quick-digesting protein, such as whey isolates and hydrolyzed whey products, before you work out, it will be available for recovery much sooner than if you wait until after you train to take it in.

Check the chart for our currently recommended recipes for pre- and postworkout shakes. Mix all the ingredients together, take the glutamine and creatine separately, or use a product that contains these ingredients in these dosages. The most important considerations are the timing and the dosages.

Q | Please help me understand why protein portions are in grams per pound of bodyweight. My bodyfat is approximately 23%, and I’m trying to lower it. Shouldn’t people like me count just lean muscle mass, rather than include that much bodyfat in the equation?

A | A gram per pound of bodyweight is a user-friendly recommendation that applies to most bodybuilders. At 23% bodyfat and with your goal of trying to reduce it (while adding muscle mass), you’re in a somewhat different category. If you currently weigh 250 pounds, you have more than 50 pounds of bodyfat and lean mass of just over 190 pounds. Let’s assume that your goal is to maintain your lean mass (and add to it), while taking your bodyfat down to 10%. This would put your bodyweight at approximately 220, with lean mass of about 200.

A good plan for you would be to eat one gram of protein per pound of your target weight (in this case, 220) each day. We have made this recommendation before. We prefer target weight to lean mass. First, it’s easier to determine. Second, even if you’re trying to reduce bodyweight, cutting calories from protein is not the best way to do so. If you used a lean-mass equation, you’d be consuming 190 grams of protein daily, rather than 220. Instead, cut calories from carbs (particularly sugary or simple ones) and from fats (the unhealthy saturated ones), but keep your protein intake reasonably high.

Q | FLEX says to take in simple carbs before, during and after a workout. How can I do that?

A | You can do it by finding a ready-made drink or premixed powder that contains simple carbs. Often, weight-gain shakes are excellent options for adding carbs to your workout nutrition. You can order dextrose and maltodextrin in bulk from any of several supplement companies. Add these sugars to a whey-protein product (in a 2:1 ratio of sugars to protein) that doesn’t already contain carbs. Many supplement companies offer products that are mostly simple carbs but also contain recovery and growth ingredients, such as creatine and glutamine. They can be mixed into protein shakes, too. (Also, see our answer to the Net Gains question about current pre- and postworkout recommendations.)

If you want to go the food route, go for fast-digesting carb sources. Eat a bagel or two (depending on the size) or several slices of white bread (add jelly if you want to), or drink Gatorade or Coke with your protein shake. You can also mix dry rice cereal (the kind made for babies) into your protein shake. Besides being a source of fast-digesting carbs, that type of cereal will add thickness and texture to your protein shake.

Postworkout, try to avoid fiber and fats, as they will slow down the digestion of the simple carbs and protein.

About an hour after your postworkout meal, eat a whole-food meal with protein, complex carbs, healthy fats and fiber. A good example is a steak plus a medium-sized yam, salad with olive oil and vinegar, and a vegetable, such as broccoli or asparagus.



20+ ounces of water

30-40 grams (g) of whey protein

60-80 g of simple carbs (2:1 ratio of carbs to protein)

5 g of glutamine

2-3 g of creatine

NOTE: Drink half of the mixture before your workout and continue to sip it as you train.


20+ ounces of water

30-50 g of whey protein

60-100 g of simple carbs (2:1 ratio of carbs to protein)

5 g of glutamine

2-3 g of creatine


This column addresses nutrition questions sent to us via our Web site. To send us a query, simply go to our home page at, click on “Contact Us” and select “FLEX Nutrition Comments.” We’ll answer as many questions as we can, but we will not be able to respond to you individually.

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