Whether your workout goal is to lose weight or gain more muscle, it’s integral that you eat right for optimal results. The muscles engaged during exercise rely heavily on the fuel you provide them, which is why eating the right food before, during, and after can greatly impact the quality of your workout sessions and your overall results. Aside from this, research published by the Oxford University Press points out that the right nutrition can reduce the risks of various chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. That being said, it is of paramount importance now more than ever to focus on not only your workouts but also the food you consume, as Maryville University reveal how a staggering 164 million Americans will succumb to chronic diseases by 2025. This is a number that translates to nearly half of the population. Being mindful of your dietary choices will not only improve your performance but will also boost your overall health in the long run.
Here is a quick breakdown of the nutrition you’ll be needing before, during, and after a workout to help you with your eating plan.
Before you head to the track or the gym, make sure you consume nutrients that would help you sustain energy, preserve muscle mass, and speed up recovery. Your pre-workout nutrition should then consist of mostly carbohydrates, as well as some protein and heart-healthy fats.
That said, your main focus should be on eating enough quality carbohydrates that would provide your body the energy it needs for your workout. According to the Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the carbohydrates that give you the most nutrition are those that contain a lot of fiber, like whole-wheat toast, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables. A small amount of protein (to help increase muscle gain) and healthy fats (to give your body more fuel) should ideally be part of your pre-workout meal for better performance. Note that you also need to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, or your body will have a hard time performing at its best.
For a full and well-digested meal, make sure to enjoy your pre-workout food at least 2-3 hours before you exercise. If you would like to consume anything later than that, it would have to be a small snack, or better yet, something liquid like a smoothie.
During Workout Nutrition
The most important thing to remember during any workout is to keep yourself hydrated. And as mentioned in our article enumerating ‘The Best Foods to Eat for Energy’, the best beverage for hydration is water. Make sure to take small, frequent sips of water in between sets. This should be enough to hydrate you during workouts, but for those who exercise intensely for over an hour, a sports drink can help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat.
Generally, there is no need to consume any food when you exercise for an hour or less. But for longer sweat sessions, you can fuel your body with sports drinks, fruits, and other high-carbohydrate food and drinks.
After exercising, you will need the right nutrients for your body, with researchers from Massey University stating that the lack of adequate nutrition may hamper recovery, as well as beneficial adaptations and performance. Working out triggers the breakdown of muscle protein, so eating protein is a must to help our bodies repair and grow muscles. To help replace the glycogen stores used as fuel during your session, consuming carbohydrates afterward is also important.
That being said, the ideal post-workout meal should have a 1:1 ratio of protein and carbohydrates and must be consumed within 2 hours after you exercise. A good example of a post-workout meal would be a turkey sandwich with vegetables. Last but not least is water. Don’t forget that keeping yourself hydrated after exercising also aids in faster recovery.
At the end of the day, nutrition is just as important as exercise. However, it is important to note that people have different kinds of workouts and digestive systems, so listen closely to your body and do what works best for you.
Words by Mona Presson
Written exclusively for nutrifusion.com