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Pre-WO/Post-WO timing and, anyway, do I need them?

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Hello everyone - I'm new to the Whole30 (Day 3), and, while I am feeling confident about my three regular Whole30 meals, both what I've already consumed and what I have planned, I am still struggling with the pre/post-workout meals, and I'm even wondering - do I need to eat these?


I'm 27, 226lbs, 5'2" and healthy with no autoimmune or chronic illnesses. I've lived a mostly active/healthy life since 2011 (when I weight 275lbs), with regular exercise. I've been doing clean eating for three years. I'm saying these things to point out that Whole30 was not a huge stretch for me.


My exercise routine at the moment is that I do dance fitness for an hour 3 times per week, strength training 2 times per week (this varies as to what exactly I do and for how long) and yoga for an hour 2 times per week. I also try to log at least 10,000 steps per day regardless of my exercise routine (I walk to/from work 4 days per week).


I already read somewhere on the forum that I probably do not need pre/post workout meals on the days that I do yoga, so that is clear. However, on the other days, I'm struggling with the timing and whether or not I need them. For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays when I do dance, my classes aren't until 7:30 and 7:10 respectively, so I eat dinner before, probably I would say around 6:00pm. So I'm already eating within 90 minutes before these workouts - do I need the specific Pre-WO meal? My dinner is like any other Whole30 meal, meaning it has components besides protein and healthy fats like vegetables (both starchy and non) and sometimes fruit. So, on the one hand, I'm certainly not eating exactly what I'm "supposed" to eat 90 minutes pre-workout, but I am, indeed, eating within the correct time frame just because of how life works out!


Related, I have to eat my post-workout meal between 8:45 and 9:00 on these days, but I go to bed at 11:00 at the latest, sometimes earlier. So for post-workout meals on those days, I'm eating awfully close to bedtime.


The other days I exercise, the timing is a bit better for these meals, but I feel like these are my most active days, perhaps the days I would most need these meals, so it's sort of like I'm between a rock and a hard place.


My other concern is that this feels like a lot of food! My three regular meals are maybe a bit larger than I was used to eating in the past, so adding in these little meals feels like too much food. But maybe that is just my diet-oriented brain overthinking it.


Finally, for clarification, I have about 2 oz. of chicken and 10 olives pre-workout and about 4 oz. of chicken and a quarter cup of sweet potatoes (roughly based that off of the carb curve) post-workout. Any insight would be helpful!

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If you've eaten within a couple of hours of your workout, you may not need the pre-WO. Try skipping it on the days you've already eaten dinner and see how you do, you may be fine without it.


Post-WO is more important, as it's meant to aid muscle recovery (the lean protein), and replenish glycogen levels (the starchy vegetable). This article has a little more about that.


As far as it feeling like a lot of food, it's hard to say whether you're actually eating too much, not enough, or just the right amount without seeing what your meals actually look like, but it's pretty common for people to feel like they're eating a lot of food on this plan when they start. Your meals should keep you comfortably satisfied for 4-5 hours at a time, and you shouldn't feel uncomfortably stuffed after a meal. If those two things are true for you, you're probably on the right track. If you want to post a day or two of typical meals, including approximate serving sizes, we could take a look and see if it seems about right.

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Thanks for your response, Shannon! It was very helpful. I skipped the pre-workout meal yesterday and just had a post-workout meal - that seemed to be plenty for energy and recovery from my dance fitness class. Here are two days of meals - please let me see if you see any significant problems.




~7:00am - Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of roasted potatoes and 2 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds

~1:00pm - Lunch: 2.6 oz tuna, 2 cups of green beans, 1/2 cup of pistachios and 1 cup of strawberries

~4:45pm - Pre-workout snack: 2 oz of chicken and 10 olives

(worked out at 6:00pm)

~7:10pm - Post-workout snack: 4 oz chicken and 1/4 cup of sweet potatoes

~8:00pm - Dinner: 4 oz of salmon, 1 cup of zucchini, 1 cup of roasted potatoes and 1 cup of frozen fruit (berries)




~7:00am - Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 Whole30 sausage patties, 1/2 cup of roasted sweet potatoes and 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

~2:15pm - Lunch: 2.6 oz tuna, 2 cups of green beans, 1/2 cup of pistachios and 1 cup of red grapes

~6:00pm - Dinner: 1 serving of this pork and mushroom casserole, 1 cup of roasted potatoes and 1 cup of frozen fruit (berries)

(worked out 7:10-8:10)

~9:00pm - Post-workout snack: 4 oz. chicken, 1/4 cup of sweet potatoes, 1 pickle


Thanks for all of your help!

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I would be very hungry all day on this amount of food.


When eggs are your only source of protein, have as many whole eggs as you can hold in your hand, which is probably 3-4. If you don't want that many eggs at once, you can include some other protein instead, like you did with the sausage patties on Wednesday.


2.6 oz of tuna sounds like very little -- how does it relate to the palm of your hand? Protein should be 1-2 portions the length, width, and depth of your palm.


For every meal, have 1-3 cups of vegetables. Aim for three cups most of the time. Your breakfast is definitely lacking -- one thing I do when I don't really want more vegetables is put two or three big handfuls of spinach in the blender or food processor with my three eggs and blend til the spinach is thoroughly minced and blended with the eggs, then I cook them just the way I'd cook scrambled eggs, with whatever seasoning you like in your scrambled eggs. It give me more veggies without feeling like vegetables. You could also sauté zucchini or summer squash, or roast some cauliflower and broccoli with your sweet potatoes, or whatever vegetables sound good to you.


I'm a little concerned that you're using nuts and seeds for your fat source for four of the meals you listed here. A serving size of nuts and seeds is a small closed handful, and because they have a less than ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and also cause digestive issues for many people, you're really better off limiting them. Try a serving every other day. Add olives, avocado, coconut, mayo, or other oil-based sauces or dips instead.

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Alright, so let me preface this response by saying two things. One, I have only felt truly hungry in between meals once in the last four days, and that was an anomaly when there were six hours in between two meals. I think it's because I've eaten in roughly these same portions for six months and then more or less the same amount of food and calories prior to that. Maybe this is bad - it probably is - but I've lived on a diet either restrictive in calories or portions or both for five years, so I'm actually pretty full from the amounts of food you're seeing here. I don't have a problem with eating more - my problem is food addiction, not food restriction - but I'm not hungry.


Two, I am an extremely picky either, particularly when it comes to vegetables. I started trying to eat healthier in 2011. In that five years, I went from enjoying exactly one non-starchy vegetable to six non-starchy vegetables. Basically one per year. My understanding is that part of the Whole30 is increasing the variety of foods you eat and learning to like more foods. But I've spent five years doing that, and this is where I am right now. I don't think that's going to change too much in the next 25 days.


It won't be a problem at all to increase my protein. The concepts that the Whole30 uses like fist size, palm size, etc. do not work for me. I am not a visual learner. I can't picture those portions in my mind or on my plate. So I took it to mean "a serving" because I do have a concept of what a serving is. I love eggs, so no problem eating more, and if I make more sausage, I can add that in more frequently too. The tuna is just one pouch of tuna - I can certainly eat two pouches, no problem.


When I went from eating one cup of vegetables per day to four cups of vegetables per day, that was a huge step and a real challenge for me. One of those was blended into a meal replacement shake, which, of course, I can't have on the Whole30. There's no way I'm going to be able to basically double the amount of vegetables I eat in a day over the course of the next 25 days. It is literally not going to happen. If I had realized that this was truly the recommended amount, I would have included that in my two months of preparation. But I see no way that, at this point, 5 days into the program and after years of trying to increase my vegetable intake that I could double it everyday with a snap of my fingers. Thank you for the tip about blending some spinach into my eggs. I don't like spinach, but that trick worked with my meal replacement shake, so maybe I'll give it a go.


I don't think I've ever had anyone ever tell me that there was something wrong with having nuts and seeds on a regular basis. I'm sure what you said was mentioned somewhere in the book, but I read that two months ago, and there was a lot of information in there. I can probably switch out to olives occasionally without much of a problem. But I'm not too crazy about avocado, I hate mayo and I don't really have the time to make sauces/dips - besides, what would I dip in them? If you think cooked vegetables are a problem for me, I don't eat any raw vegetables at all. Now, I do love coconut...but how do I incorporate that? Just eat it by itself? Anyway, I think I turned to seeds and nuts because there is a variety and an ease there. I like olives but then we're talking a monotony in that. But definitely switching up my fats is less of a challenge than my vegetables.


Thanks for your advice and help. But it kind of really has put a damper on Day 5 for me. I thought I was doing well. And it sounds like I'm making a lot of mistakes. Hopefully I can improve on some of these things.

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I have a similar situation - two days a week I teach a dance fitness class from 6:30PM-7:30PM.  If I get my dinner in before that, I likely can't fit a pre-workout in. If I have dinner after class (8pm at the earliest), I'm definitely not going to be able to get a post-workout meal in before bed. I was thinking my dinner will probably be very similar to a post work out meal, except it will have healthy fats included. Does it make sense to just eat dinner and skip the post workout meal? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  :)


9AM Breakfast

1PM Lunch

545PM PWO Snack

8PM Dinner

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Depends on how hard you're working at that dance class. If you are depleting yourself then no, it does not make sense to skip the post workout meal. It's a few bites of protein and some starchy veggie that you can eat in the change room/in your car directly after your workout. Then you go home and eat dinner.

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