Working out pushes your body and it takes a lot of energy. In this post I will discuss how to eat properly for your workouts. Consuming needed nutrients before and after, as well as sustaining your blood sugar levels during the workout, are essential for effective sessions.
Everybody is different, and it may take some experimentation on your part to figure out what works best for you. As there are no hard and fast rules, there are general guidelines to help you figure out what your body needs in order to get the maximum results for all of your hard work.
In addition to providing needed nutrition to sustain your workout, you should also pay attention to post-workout shakes, meals, and supplements that aid in proper recovery and provide the needed building blocks for your muscles.
I’ve put together some tips for you below on how to eat properly for your workouts. Experiment to see what makes you feel best during and after. If you’re new to working out, start out with lighter meals before a strenuous session. The last thing you want is to be mid-workout, feeling fine and fueled, bend over to do a 45-degree back raise, then your digestive system decides it no longer wants to hold in your pre-workout meal. Though this is nothing to be ashamed of, I think we would all rather avoid the incident altogether!
If you already know your body can handle a hearty meal just half an hour before you push yourself, then by all means, do what works for you! I can personally eat a full meal then workout just a short 20 minutes later. However, this is not something I advise you to do right off the bat if you do not know for sure how your body will react. If you do eat a heavy meal, it may be best for you to wait 90 minutes or longer before a strenuous session.
Start with carbohydrates and protein:
Generally speaking, eating light carbs and proteins are ideal if you have to eat shortly (less than one hour) before your workout. Simple carbs provide a quick supply of sugars to the bloodstream to start you off, and complex carbs provide a timed release to help keep your sugar levels from dropping during your session. A protein shake or some greek yogurt with fruit and granola is a good option for a pre-workout meal. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of choices with hemp, pea, or other nuts and seed proteins. All of the options listed above are also gluten-free. Peanut butter on whole wheat bread and an apple is also a popular choice. If you feel the carbohydrates and protein aren’t quite doing it for you, try adding some healthy fats as some people function better with them.
Intensity and time of workout matter:
When is your workout?
If you’re an early riser and prefer to workout first thing, but don’t feel that you can eat breakfast in the wee hours of the morning, this is when a pre-workout protein shake is an ideal solution. Though I recommend pre-workout casein protein powder (or a vegan alternative) for all of my clients, no matter their workout times, it is perfect for those times when you can not manage to work in a meal before working out. It provides the needed nutrients that you would get if you were to eat properly for your workouts.
How hard is your workout going to be?
Intense workouts require more fuel. It’s important to sustain your blood sugar during this time so you do not get dizzy, fatigued, or nauseous. You may be able to do this if you ate some complex carbohydrates before your workout. If not, or if you waited at least 90 minutes or longer before starting your workout, your levels may drop. There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening. Have a sports drink handy and sip from it during your workout, especially if you feel you start feeling a bit lightheaded. You can also prepare an intra-workout beverage consisting of a sports drink with essential amino acids (EAA’s – in powder form) mixed in with it. This is an important step if you wish to maintain your stamina in order to push through.
Finally, once your workout is complete, it’s important to take steps to help your muscles recover and rebuild. Working out causes microscopic tears in the muscle tissues. Building muscle and strength is a process of breaking down the muscles, then allowing them to repair, which causes them to become stronger. Having a protein shake that also consists of carbohydrates immediately after a workout helps the muscles to recover and rebuild faster. The protein aids the muscle repair while the carbohydrates replace the glycogen that was used during training. Ingesting this in liquid form allows the nutrients quicker access to your bloodstream. It is then ideal to eat a meal that consists of whole foods about an hour afterwards.
Now that you know how and why to eat properly for your workouts, I hope you give this routine a try. I can guarantee that you will feel much better during and after your training sessions, as well as aid in your recovery and strength building. It’s all a part of an effective protocol for strength training and overall fitness.
For my next post, I am going to write about three myths concerning strength training that I think need to be addressed. I hope it will help you in your fitness journey and help you discover why strength training is one of the best (if not the best) modalities for fitness and training.
Until then, Live Strong! ~ Zak