You’ve heard it said over and over again, “exercise is only half of the equation, diet and nutrition is just as important, if not more-so.” But nutrition covers such a wide variety of sub-topics, it would be impossible to cover it all in one small newsletter. For the sake of today’s article, I am going to talk about the importance of meal timing, more specifically before and after you workout.
Many times right before a class I’ll ask people, “what did you eat before working out today?” A lot of times, ill get blank stares… but a few honest people will reply “nothing” or “I haven’t had anything for about 4-5 hours.” This is especially common with people who workout first thing in the morning! Perhaps people think that because you haven’t ingested any calories for the day that your body will be forced to burn stubborn fat. Well that’s just straight up wrong. It is well documented that training while fasted can lead to less energy during the workout, muscle fatigue, and even muscle breakdown. You could end up feeling dizzy or nauseous quite easily if you fail to fuel your body beforehand.
Ideally, I recommend people to have a small meal 30-60 minutes before their workout consisting of healthy carbohydrates and protein. YES, I said carbs, they are not your enemy! Carbs are the best source of fuel to keep your muscles working hard for a longer during an intense workout. Now I realize that eating right when you wake up might be the last thing you want to do, but it will make an immediate impact on your performance during your workout. I’m not saying you need to shovel an entire stack of pancakes into your mouth right before working out (that would be horrible idea FYI), but a nominal amount of carbohydrates will definitely make a positive impact on your performance. Try it for yourself and find out!
Easy ideas for early morning or anytime pre-workout protein can include: Protein shake, egg whites (one or two whole eggs would be okay as well), cottage cheese and plain low-fat Greek yogurt. Try to get around 15g of protein before working out.
Some ideas for early morning or anytime pre-workout carbohydrates can include: Bananas/fruit, oatmeal, sweet potato and veggies. Try to get around 20-25g of carbs before working out.
Want me to make it even easier for you? Okay, here are a few great meal ideas for pre-workout: 1) Protein shake and banana. 2) Oatmeal with protein powder. 3) Veggie omelet and fruit. 4) Fruit and cottage cheese. 5) Glass of milk and fruit. All of these meals have the necessary carbs to power you through a workout and plenty of protein to help build muscle.
Now onto post-workout nutrition. I am sure that most of you go home and have what you consider to be a healthy meal after working out because you’ve just had a great workout and now its time to refuel! But who really understands why or what is best to eat? I’ll try to make things a little clearer. I would recommend having your post-workout meal within an hour or two after exercising, and having it consist of healthy carbohydrates and protein. By no means do you need to eat immediately following your workout. Your muscle will not magically disappear if you fail to drink your protein shake before stepping foot out of the gym! So if you are able to, I recommend a good hearty meal post-workout rather than the quick fix protein shake. However, do whatever you need to in order to accommodate your schedule (if you have to head straight to work right after workout, then a protein shake would be a great option). Your post-workout nutrition is crucial for the recovery process and makes sure your body will recover and adapt to the training and exercise you just put it through.
Some easy ideas for post-workout protein can include: Protein shake (duh!), chicken breast, lean ground beef, turkey, milk, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, yogurt etc. Try to get roughly 25-30g of protein post-workout.
Some ideas for post-workout carbs can include: Vegetables, fruits, whole grain bread/pasta, potatoes, rice, beans etc. Try to get roughly 20-40g of carbs in your post-workout meal. As far as fats are concerned for pre and post-workout meals, they are not essential, but getting some in is in no way a bad thing. Ensure they are healthy fats (nuts and seeds, some oils and butters, avocado, fish, etc.) and you’ll be just fine.
Again I’ll make it even easier for you by outlining a few great post-workout meal ideas: 1) Protein shake mixed with instant carbs for a quick fix. 2) Chicken breast with rice and vegetables. 3) Steak with sweet potato and vegetables. 4) Low sodium deli meats in a whole grain wrap with vegetables. 5) Scrambled eggs with vegetables and lean ground beef and whole grain toast.
There you have it, everything you need to know about pre and post-workout nutrition! While this meal timing is important, the most important thing overall in any diet or nutrition plan is overall consumption day-to-day, and week-to-week. You could eat healthy food all day long, fact is if you’re overeating (getting too many calories) you’re still going to gain or maintain weight. Luckily for us all, eating clean whole foods makes us feel more full while consuming less calories than that processed fake crap, so in most cases we don’t need to worry too much about overeating. However, if you’ve been eating healthy and exercising and not seeing the results you desire, something needs to be changed! Most people unknowingly eat a high carbohydrate/low protein diet, which is the absolute worst thing you can do while working out and trying to get toned/lose weight! The first step every person should take is to start getting more protein into their diet every single day.
If you have any questions on diet or nutrition please don’t hesitate to ask! I myself have successfully lost 35lbs and 8% body fat over the course of 3 months, so I know what it takes. Its not easy, but it IS doable, for EVERYONE!
Thanks for reading! Until next time, keep it healthy!