Definitive guide to evening training
What’s the best time of day to train?
WHENEVER YOU CAN!
Training in the evening may have some benefits over morning training in that it allows for time for you to be in a fed state for training, but it also has a number of potential issues.
What should I eat pre workout, should I change my evening meal if I didn't train that hard, what should I eat if I don't finish until 8pm. I KNOW ITS A BLOODY MINEFIELD!
So here is our definitive guide for evening training.
Meal structure over the day
Now does this sound familiar to you?
You eat lunch
Then you get caught in a meeting or snowed under with work so the next time you look at the clock it is time leave.
So you rush out of work and start to feel hungry.
Shall I eat? Should I grab a snack?
You then go into the workout either feeling full from eating 30 minutes before it or you don’t eat a start dreaming of food half way through
Then when you get home you are so hungry you snack whilst making dinner and inhale your meal.
Is this the ideal set up? Hmmm not too sure.
Whether you training starts at 6pm or 9pm you need to ensure that you are fuelled adequately for the session. Remember you are providing your body energy for work NOT just training.
It obviously depends on your goal as to WHAT you are eating. However I still advocate eating something around 2-3 hours pre training. Going long periods without eating at this time of the day is a sub optimal way to maximise the stimulus of your CrossFit session.
Getting a structured pattern of eating is crucial. When we get clients to balance their intake over the day, opposed to backloading their calories, their performance skyrockets!
Snacking mid afternoon
ENTER THE MID AFTERNOON MINI MEAL. Using a mid afternoon “mini meal” will help in three ways.
It will provide calories to support your evening training session
It can help to prevent that energy slump mid afternoon or early evening
It will support your recovery and help sleep
The make-up of this mini meal depends on your personal goals, training type and volume.
The reason for making this a mini meal is snacking is often mindless and doesn't serve a purpose. It is too easy to overeat snack foods and not be satiated after eating. Planning this meal will provide structure to your nutrition and allow you to adjust in the future depending on how you feel during different sessions.
This snack doesn’t have to be typical snack food. Using wraps, a small pack of sushi, a small pot of overnight oats or frittata are good options.
If you do get caught up with work and 1 hour before the workout feel that hunger pang then liquid nutrition or something that is easy to digest is advised. Emergency snacks such as Rx bars, some nuts and dates, a banana with a rice cake and a little nut butter are all good options.
As you can see it is about preparation. Check out our nutritionist Martas meal prep instagram page for some awesome ideas! https://www.instagram.com/meal_prep_no_stress/
With evening training intra workout shouldn't be "needed". If you have followed your nutrition plan over the day, eaten at regular times and stayed hydrated then taking intra workout fuel is not required. Water only.
If you are using a BCAA then ask yourself why. Is your training over 2 hours long? Are you a Regionals or elite athlete training 16 hours a week?
Save your money. Eat real food pre and post workout and watch your performance skyrocket. If you feel you NEED a BCAA or pre workout then you may need to adjust your intake over the day and / or the pre workout meal.
The 3 biggest issues with evening training I see with clients are -
Eating too late - what and how much to eat
Not being able to sleep
Being unprepared so end up grabbing something quick (and usually not conducive to optimal recovery).
So you have just finished your workout and your thoughts quickly shift on to what am I going to eat to recover from those 50 squat cleans? Having a healthy, nutrient dense meal that is prepared or takes little time to cook is one of the best ways to ensure you stick to your nutrition plan.
Having food prepped will lower the decision stress of what to eat, what to buy and will prevent late night shopping…which always ends in some form of doughnut or brownie being slipped into the basket! Here are some tips on how to achieve this –
Making extra the night before
Use up frozen meals (that are homemade!)
Planning quick cook meals such as stir fry, omelettes or a buddha bowl
Using quick cook packets of food such as uncle bens or merchant gourmet can save time. Add in veggies and some cooked lean meat or fish and you have a meal in under 10 minutes.
Now for the question we all want to know the answer to - should I eat carbs post workout?
This is all about context. To try and simplify things follow these guidelines
Eat a higher carb meal post workout if -
You going to train the next morning
You are trying to gain muscle
The workout was very intense
You didn’t eat much pre workout
No need to rush eating a higher carb meal if -
The workout was fairly low intensity or your skill level meant you didn’t do much work
You are taking a rest day the next day
You ate a large lunch and pre workout meal
Carbs at night will not make you fat. If anyone tells you this - send them our way so we can explain why this is complete nonsense.
Sleep and hormones
We have all been there...so pumped that we PB'd and crushed the WOD. We get home and eat and then head to bed only to stare straight at the ceiling for hours!
If you struggle to sleep in the evening after a session here is some advice.
When you exercise there is an increase in cortisol, which is vital to provide energy for your workout. However, the normal circadian rhythm is for cortisol to be at its lowest point in the evening (when we are now exercising). This can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alongside causing a disruption in hormonal balance.
As shown by the image we want melatonin to be elevated and cortisol suppressed. Performing CrossFit in the evening can basically flip this. Additionally blue light (phones and computer screens) can suppress the release of melatonin. So what are we going to do about this?!
Luckily specific foods and nutrients can balance hormones and neurotransmitters that have been either elevated or suppressed during evening exercise. Being smart with your nutrition can help to lower cortisol post workout, enhancing recovery and leading to restful sleep.
Foods that will help achieve this include carbohydrates.
Yep that’s right I said it – eat carbs in the evening! Why? You have just smashed your body through a brutal WOD, it is primed to absorb carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. This is essential if you are training the next day. Carbohydrates will also lower cortisol levels due to insulin secretion. The consumption of certain foods that increase the availability of tryptophan, alongside synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, will aid in promoting sleep.
Eating some protein containing Omega-3 fatty acids is also recommended. We don’t need to tell you the importance of protein for muscle repair, but eating quality protein in the evening can also increase serotonin levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce cortisol, boost growth hormone and lower the inflammatory response from exercise. The last thing you want to be doing is eating foods that heighten the inflammatory response. Foods that are deep fried or high in refined sugar should not even be on the radar.
DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE WHO SAYS YOU CAN EAT WHAT YOU WANT AFTER YOU HAVE TRAINED. REFUEL YOUR BODY WITH QUALITY!
TURKEY, SWEET POTATO, CHERRIES, SALMON, LAMB, PUMPKIN SEEDS, PRAWNS, BANANAS are all excellent choices to build your meals with post evening training.
TAKE HOME POINTS
Try not to go long periods of the day without eating. Meal structure is so important.
Find what works for you in your pre workout meal. Trial a few recipes and get this nailed.
If you train late make sure you have some quick cook meals or pre prepared meals ready to eat when you get home.
Take food to the gym and eat after showering / stretching. This way you don’t feel like you just get home, eat and go straight to bed.
If you still struggle to find what works for your evening training then our nutrition program may be the answer.
Work with your own coach, follow our simple plan that gets results.
It will be the last nutrition plan you’ll ever need
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