How you eat can make a big difference to the way you exercise. Fueling your workout with the right foods is important to give you the energy, strength and stamina needed to optimize your efforts.
However, knowing what to eat, and when is equally as important. Your body needs the right vitamins and minerals to function properly, and a healthy diet can provide this.
Supplements are another good way to give your body the nutrients its needs and can help you in achieving your workout goals.
This article will outline some eating tips to help you get the best out of your workouts.
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A healthy, balanced meal eaten three hours before your workout will give you energy and can help you train for longer periods and at greater intensity, improving your overall performance.
A meal that combines carbohydrates and protein is recommended for the following reasons:
- Helps increase muscle mass – This is especially important for weight-training and resistance work.
- Increases amino acids in the bloodstream – This promotes muscle protein synthesis (MPS) which is needed to build muscle.
- Reduces muscle damage – Protein helps to prevent muscle breakdown and is key in repairing damaged or torn muscle fibers
- Enzyme production – Protein is necessary for building enzymes and other bodily functions such as the formation of muscles, bones, and tissues.
Some of the best protein sources are animal products such as red meat, poultry and dairy as well as fish and eggs. Lentils, broccoli, spinach and nuts are also rich in protein.
- Provide the energy for your workout – Fuel your muscles and help to increase endurance by warding off fatigue. Essential for high-intensity workouts as they convert fat into glucose fast.
- Preserve muscle retention – In a process known as protein sparing, carbs provide the energy that is needed thereby preserving muscle tissue.
- Stimulates insulin release – When carbs are combined with protein, insulin activates protein synthesis and breakdown.
Foods containing carbohydrates include rice, pasta, quinoa, whole-grain bread, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables.
Rice dishes also are a good source of carbohydrates. You can learn how to cook white rice on a stove as a start.
The closer you are to your workout, the less time your body has to digest. This is why a light snack or a liquid is recommended before or during your workout.
Eating a healthy snack before your workout is especially important if you plan to exercise several hours after a meal. Healthy options include:
- Protein shake
- Energy bar or granola bar
- Banana or berries
- Fruit smoothie
- Peanut butter
What you eat after your workout is just as important to help your body recover and refuel itself. Post-workout nutrition should include the following:
Protein is a necessary part of your post-workout recovery process and consuming it after exercise. It can prevent protein breakdown as well as stimulate protein synthesis which is needed for repairing and maintaining muscle tissue.
To aid in recovery time and performance, consider eating protein within 60 minutes of your workout ending.
After a workout, your body’s glycogen reserves will be depleted so consuming carbohydrates post-workout can help replenish them. This is especially beneficial after a resistance training or endurance workout.
Carbs can also prevent muscle loss and aid in muscle recovery. They can help to rebuild and repair your muscles with the protein and amino acids in your body.
Foods to Avoid Before a Workout
Knowing what not to eat before your workout is just as important as fuelling your body with the right foods.
Working out on a full stomach without giving your body time to digest your food is also not advised.
When you exercise blood flows to your muscles instead of your digestive system putting strain on your stomach.
This can greatly compromise your digestion as well as your workout performance. It can lead to stomach cramps, acid reflux, nausea and vomiting.
Avoid the foods below to give your digestive system as much support as possible when working out.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables: Including vegetables such as arugula, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. These high-fiber vegetables take your body extra time to digest so should be avoided before a workout.
2. Simple Carbs: Carbs are needed to fuel your workout, however, refined or simple sugars like candy bars can cause your blood sugar and energy levels to suddenly drop. Hypoglycemia, or a sugar crash, can lead to suboptimal workout performance.
3. Spicy Foods: Eating spicy food before a workout can cause gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux, heartburn, indigestion and irritation to your gut. It is best to avoid such foods before working out.
4. Sodium-rich Foods: Foods that are high in salt content such as fast food, takeaways and savory snacks can not only increase your thirst during a workout but can also interfere with the balance of fluids your body needs during exercise.
5. Beans: one cup of beans contains as much as 16 grams of fiber. Their high fiber content can lead to stomach problems such as gas and bloating. Beans also contain high levels of a carbohydrate called raffinose which is difficult for the body to digest.
6. Dairy Products: High in fat and slow to digest, dairy products can cause cramps or nausea and products such as milk containing tryptophan and melatonin can cause sleepiness. Diarrhea, gas and bloating can also occur if you are lactose-intolerant.
7. Fatty and Fried Food: Avoid greasy foods such as fries, burgers, pizza and onion rings before exercising. Saturated fats are difficult to digest and can stay in your system for longer leading to bloating, stomach cramps, sluggishness and diarrhea.
8. Fizzy Drinks: Carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide which can cause gas to build up in your stomach leading to flatulence and indigestion.
9. Alcohol: It’s important to be well hydrated before a workout. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes fluids to be removed from your body quicker than other liquids causing dehydration. Alcohol can also impair your performance and lead to an injury.
By following the nutritional guidance in this article you can improve your pre and post-training workout regimen and prepare your body for optimal workout performance.