Are you running on empty every time you hit the gym? The food you eat before and after your workouts can either minimize or maximize your athletic performance. Whether you prefer a brisk morning walk or an empowering Pilates class, it is important to give your body the nutrients it needs. Make sure to fuel your tank to keep your engines running long and strong with the following tips.
Be a Carbohydrate Champion
As the main source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are converted to sugar that is stored in the form of glycogen as future fuel for our muscles. When the time comes to sweat it out, our muscles are able to use this sugar for energy without getting fatigued. If we don’t have a sufficient supply we won’t be able to zoom through our Zumba class! Exhaustion will prevent us from completing our workouts and protein will be used for energy instead. After a strong workout your body will need more carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen stores and minimize protein loss.
Chomp on these carbs: The best carbohydrates will provide you with adequate fiber, B vitamins and iron for energy metabolism: fruits, cereals, cracker, and breads. See pre-workout menus below!
Pump Up With Protein
Should you pass on the protein? If you seek sleek muscle tone, then become pals with protein. It is essential for promoting tissue growth and repair. After a strength-training session your muscle fibers will require this nutrient to help you in building, repairing and synthesizing new muscle.
Power up with these proteins: Low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, beans, legumes and eggs.
Forego the Fat
Although fat provides our body with energy, it is slow to digest and takes a long time to convert to usable energy. Large amounts of oxygen are required to turn fat into fuel, so save the ice cream for a later treat!
Forget these fats: Before you slip on those sneakers, make sure to avoid fatty, fried foods that will zap your energy.
Step Away From the Sugar
It is best to refrain from consuming refined sugars that will increase your insulin levels and cause a rapid rise and drop in your blood sugar.
Sugar snafus: Sweet beverages, candy bars, sweet cereals and yogurts, sugar-laced granola and power bars
Put Your Pre- and Post-Workout Eats Into Practice
Timing is everything! First of all, you probably already know that it is best not to exercise on a full stomach to prevent cramping, nausea and an upset stomach. Also, the time and intensity of your workout will often determine what you should eat and drink. A 10-mile run will demand more energy than a casual cycle around your neighborhood.
Two hours before a workout, eat a small meal, such as:
• 1 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal (carb) + 8 oz. glass low-fat milk (protein + carb)+ 2 tbs. dried cranberries (carb)
• 2 scrambled eggs (protein) with spinach and mushrooms+½ whole wheat English muffin(carbs)
•½ cup quinoa (carb and protein) + small mixed green salad
• Whole-grain toast (carb) with 1 tbs. nut butter (protein)
• 1 cup whole-grain pasta (carb) with ½ cup garbanzo beans (protein + carb)
• 3 oz.turkey breast (protein) +lettuce and tomato +2 small whole-grain crackers (carb)
An hour before a workout, snack on:
• small banana, (carb)
• 1 cup lowfat unsweetened yogurt (protein)
• ½ cup fruit and soy or almond milk smoothie (carb and protein)
• ¼ cup trail mix with nuts (protein), seeds (protein) and dried fruit (carb)
An hour after a workout:
Recover from the grind! It is best to eat within one hour after completing your workout in order to optimize muscle recovery. The highest rates of muscle glycogen synthesis occur during the first hour after exercise. Your body’s metabolism is also working at its best right after exercise, so don’t wait too long to feed your belly. Your meal should contain both protein and carbohydrates such as any of the above-mentioned foods. If you don’t have time to eat, a glass of low-fat milk is a good choice with enough protein, carbs, and electrolytes like sodium and calcium
Remember to replace lost fluids by drinking water after you exercise to prevent dehydration. For exercise lasting more than 90 minutes aim to have a quarter to a half cup of water every 15-20 minutes. This will also help you prevent fatigue while you are working out.