Exercising regularly can not only be a stress reliever, but a way to transform our bodies into an image of health. Whether you’re working out to maintain good health or you’re training for a triathlon, physical activity helps us accomplish the goals we set for ourselves and is conducive to health and wellness. They say our body is a temple, but the temple cannot be built without the right building blocks. Along with exercise, our diet compliments the hard work we put in at the gym, in our homes, or even on the pavement. Fueling our bodies with the right foods to keep our energy levels up during a workout, and helping our muscles repair after a workout, is imperative in order to achieve the perfect physique we have in mind. Not only that, but our bodies are able to absorb more nutrients, making soreness, muscle fatigue, and the likelihood of passing out due to exhaustion, less likely.
It is important to eat beforehand because it will help maximize your energy during the workout. When your body is fueled, you have the capability to put all of your effort into the routine, giving you optimal results and higher intensity. It has the added benefit of ensuring you don’t get lightheaded or dizzy from not having enough energy during the workout. Keep in mind that it is wise to eat a light meal or a snack between 3 hours and 30 minutes before you exercise (100-150 calorie snack 30 minutes to an hour before or a light meal an hour to 3 hours before). This gives the body time to digest the food and breakdown the key nutrients needed to aid your workout. Eating a light meal alone isn’t enough though. You have to eat the RIGHT stuff in order to get the most out of your workout. Protein and carbs are what you need to intake! Carbs give your body the long-lasting energy it needs to sustain your body during the workout, by breaking down the glucose in the food and storing it into your muscles in the form of glycogen. The body taps into the glucose reserves in the muscles when it runs out, providing withstanding energy. Some simple carbs that can be consumed pre-workout are:
Piece of fruit (you can add the peanut or nut butter on top)
Piece of toast
Oatmeal (light meal)
Brown rice (light meal)
Protein is another vital fuel source for pre-workout food. Our muscles need protein to repair tears in our muscle fibers that occur during certain regimens like lifting and weight training. But, small amounts of protein are key since it would be easily digestible and you from having an upset stomach. Here are some examples of protein snacks to consume pre-workout:
Milk (plant based is fine)
Peanut or Almond butter
Tuna or Salmon (light meal)
So finally, the workout is done and you feel pumped! Now, it’s time to refuel your body with you guessed it……carbs and protein. The sweat your body produces during a workout contains minerals and electrolytes. And if it’s in your sweat, that means it’s out of your body and needs to be replenished. Your body has used up the calories and glycogen from your muscles and all of that needs to be replaced in order for your muscles to recover. It is ideal to eat your post-workout meal/snack about 30 minutes afterwards, not only to restore your body but to reduce muscle soreness. At least 20 grams of protein should do the trick. Here are some examples of post-workout foods to eat after a workout:
Whole wheat bread
Last but not least. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout!