I would venture to say that everyone knows that working out has a ton of health benefits, but did you know that what you eat before and after you workout could really make or break your workout? The way you fuel your body can be just as important as the actual workout itself.
First of all, if you're an avid gym goer you should be consuming enough calories throughout your day to support your workout. This is probably the biggest nutrition crime I see out there. Working out a lot and not eating enough doesn't necessarily mean weight loss, and it certainly doesn't mean healthy. If you're wondering more about calories read my previous blog post here.
There's debate about whether working out on an empty stomach is more beneficial blah, blah, blah. Here's what the science says: eating before a workout as opposed to not eating before a workout (the fasting state) has been shown to improve exercise performance. So, I guess if you don't really care about improving your performance then you don't really need to eat before you hit the gym... but honestly, does anyone that works out not care about improving? It's recommended that 1-3 hours prior to your workout you eat a meal or a snack. I know 1-3 hours seems like a big time gap, but that's where individualization comes in. Experiment and see what works best for your body... one hour might be too soon and you'll end up with stomach cramps, three hours might be too long. Play around with it and figure out what your body needs.
So what should you eat before your workout? Carbs!! You want a little protein too, but carbs should be your main focus. Here's why: carbs fuel your muscles and your muscles fuel your workout. Lets talk about the science for one tiny second (I promise I'll try not to get too nerdy and boring). Carbs are glucose, glucose gets stored as glycogen in your liver and muscle cells. Why does this matter to you? Well, glycogen is the energy source your body uses for exercise. For longer bouts of exercise your body will start using fat for fuel, but it still needs glycogen to help break the fat down into something it can use. Maybe the most convincing argument for needing carbs preworkout for some of you is the fact that without them... your body will use protein to get what it needs, aka you won't see much improvement in your muscle growth. Bottom line: carbs are your friends.
Pre-Workout Snack Ideas:
- whole wheat bread with nut butter and a banana
- greek yogurt with berries
- oatmeal with fruit
- apple or banana with nut butter
Alright, your workout is over and you're super impressed with how much you killed it at the gym thanks to your preworkout snack, but now what?! Replenish, replenish, replenish! After your workout it's important to restore fluid, electrolytes, muscle fuel (aka glycogen, aka carbs), and protein for muscle building and repair. It's best to have a snack with a 3:1 ratio of carbs and protein within 15-20 minutes after your workout, followed by a balanced meal 3-4 hours later.
Post-Workout Snack Ideas:
- protein shake (need advice on protein powders? click here)
- low fat chocolate milk
- greek yogurt with berries
Questions? Preparing for a race? Wanting more info on how to up your gym game? E-mail me!