I have seen countless people slave away at the gym, pound on their bodies and spend countless hours sweating, and consume foods that are less than stellar for their body and performance. This often leaves people questioning whether or not they should be working out since they are not seeing or getting the results they want. Of course you should workout! It’s good for your heart, your bones, muscles, mind and overall health. Unless you are fueling your body properly however, you won’t look like you are working your tail off, which is what most people are going for.
So here are some helpful tips when it comes to harnessing the power of nutrition pre, post and during your workout so you can perform at your best, develop more muscle tone and definition and have enough energy to make it through your workout and the rest of your day.
What to eat before working out:
Let’s tackle you early risers and fasted cardio doers. It is best to wake up and workout rather than eat something quick and workout immediately after. Why? Our bodies need time to digest the food so it can properly turn it into fuel. If you are working out on a fully loaded belly, you may find yourself becoming zapped of energy and lethargic during your workout. This is because your body is already working hard to digest the food, so some of your energy resources are being allocated to that function. If you add a workout on top of that, you will not have the maximum output of energy your body needs to perform a tough workout. Therefore, if you do not have an hour to let your food properly digest in the morning, then eat during or after your workout.
If you do have time to let your food digest (about an hour) then I suggest complex carbohydrates. I know… What? Carbs? Aren’t they bad? Listen, carbs have gotten a bad rap over the last decade; “they will make you fat” is the overall feeling people have about them, but the truth is our bodies need them. To get the most out of your workouts, quality fuel is key.
Did you know that carbohydrates are the human body’s preferred fuel source? I’m not telling you to go pound a loaf of white bread or eat cobs upon cobs of corn, but what I am saying is that your body does need this type of fuel to perform at its very best.
Every gram of carbohydrates you consume should be utilized as an immediate fuel source, to help replenish your glycogen levels. The key here is not to eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, and as we know everyone’s body is different. “An individual’s optimal carb intake depends on age, gender, body composition, activity levels, personal preference, food culture and current metabolic health”, according to KrisGunnars from Authority Nutrition. A good place to start if you are physically active is between 100 and 150 grams per day, but this number will depend a lot on your activity level and the types of activities you are performing.
I typically have two meals in for the day before I train. I eat the majority of my (complex) carbohydrates in the morning like whole grain toast, rolled oats for oatmeal or even mashed/baked sweet potatoes. By doing this, my body has time to digest and my first meals provide me with full higher blood sugar and full glycogen levels.
Of course making sure your body is properly hydrated is a must. Your body needs about half your body weight in ounces of water per day to be fully hydrated. Getting in some water before your workout will help ensure you stay hydrated throughout your workout.
Here is a great graphic that lists a few simple suggestions: