Getting The Most Out Of Your Workouts.
Any advice I give my patients in regards to developing a fitness plan would be incomplete if I left out one of the best parts: food! The fact is, what you put in your body is just as important (if not more) than what you do with it. The fuel you put into your body before, during and after exercise can make a giant difference in your energy levels, the amount of fat burned, the amount of muscle hypertrophy generated and how well you recover. The right foods will minimize post-exercise soreness, jump-start the repair process, replenish glycogen stores in your muscles and more. There’s no hard and fast rules, but if you want to maximize the benefits of exercising here’s what you should put in your body before, during and after you work out:
Pre-Workout: Eat Healthy Carbs & Hydrate With Water
Before hitting the gym, eat a simple snack (or very small meal) of easily-digested carbs like whole-grain cereal, brown rice, bananas or yogurt. You want to stay away from high fat or even protein, as these digest slowly and will sit in your stomach longer and make you feel sluggish.
Here’s two great pre-workout breakfast or snack ideas:
- Overnight Oats: Use Greek yogurt, a bit of honey, some berries, a scoop of nut butter, almond milk and steel-cut oats.
- Fermented Foods: Foods like kefir support the growth of healthy bacteria which improves nutrient absorption, metabolism and immune system function.
Mid-Workout: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Whether you’re a professional athlete who trains for several hours or a weekend warrior, it’s incredibly important keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water.
Most people don’t need to eat mid-workout if it’s an hour or less. But for longer, high-intensity workouts, refuel with 50-100 calories of simple carbohydrates such as a banana, raisins, or an energy bar every half an hour.
Post-Workout Fuel: Fluids, Healthy Carbs & Protein
In the 20-60 minutes after your workout, the goal is to spike your insulin, get your body to store carbohydrates as energy and shuttle protein into your muscles to help in recovery and muscle growth.
So after your workout, you’ll want to eat a high protein snack or meal with some simple carbohydrates – like a bagel, whey protein shake, baked sweet potato, chocolate milk or a peanut butter sandwich. It’s also good to get some healthy fat, too, like avocado or dark leafy greens with vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Here’s a couple great post-workout lunch or snack ideas:
- Grilled Chicken with Veggies: A serving of grilled chicken with an assortment of vegetables, like zucchini, peppers, onions and sautéed in olive oil is a great post-workout meal.
- Tart Cherries: While I don’t usually recommend juice (too much sugar!), research has indicated that tart cherry juice is a great source of carbs for reducing post-workout soreness.
The Bottom Line
Nutrition doesn’t have to be confusing, but it does take a little knowledge when it comes to planning your pre and post-workout meals to make sure you’re getting the most out of your efforts.