What you eat before and after exercise has a huge impact on your results. Think about that.
You could be doing intense workouts, pushing yourself hard in the gym, but then eating all the wrong foods that keep your body looking the same. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to put in all that effort in the gym, I certainly don’t want my results hijacked by poor nutrition.
Transforming your body comes down to two simple parts: 1) consistent, challenging exercise and 2) balanced, proper nutrition. When you skip on the balanced, proper nutrition, you cheat yourself out of the sculpted physique that you should have. The food you eat prior to and following exercise plays a key role in the overall success of your workout. What you eat and when you eat can either help you burn more calories and build more muscle or it can hinder your weight-loss and muscle-mass goals.
Here’s how it works. Your body gets energy from the carbohydrates you eat. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose, and unused glucose is then converted to glycogen, which is stored in your liver and muscles.
During intense exercise, your body uses up this stored energy. Not having a store of energy, your body can’t function at its potential.
Healthy pre and post-workout foods provide your body with the glycogen needed to fuel your muscles during aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
Pre-Workout Fuel. Many people find that exercising first thing in the morning works best for their schedule. For some, this means heading to the gym on an empty stomach. Unfortunately, when you exercise with your body’s “gas tank” on empty, your body will start to take the amino acids from your muscles and convert them to the glucose you need for energy.
Therefore, instead of burning fat, you may actually break down your muscle! This is the opposite of what you want to do. In order to burn fat, you need to fuel up with something nutritious an hour to an hour and a half before working out. This gives your body enough time to digest the food and make the energy available for exercising.
Good examples of healthy pre-workout meals or snacks to give your body the energy it needs to exercise include high-fiber cereal with skim milk, a two- to three-ounce turkey breast, a low sugar energy bar, banana, and poached egg with whole-wheat toast and grapefruit, or a lean turkey burger.
Don’t have time to eat a meal before exercising? You still need to eat something. A quick way to give your body immediate energy is to eat a simple carbohydrate such as fruit or juice in a protein drink or shake 15 to 30 minutes prior to working out. And avoid heavy meals before exercising, as these large meals may slow you down and make you feel sluggish during your routine.
The combination of food to eat before a workout should contain complex and simple carbohydrates, fiber, and low-fat protein to give you energy, keep you feeling full, and help regulate a normal blood sugar level. Try to make sure each pre-workout meal or snack contains this combination of nutrients. Not having the right amount of carbs for energy will hinder your ability to burn calories, build muscle, and exercise to your full potential.
Replenish Post-workout. The goal of post-workout nutrition is to help muscles rebuild and strengthen following the stress and loss of glycogen they experience during exercise. To replenish energy stores, your muscles need protein and carbohydrates within half an hour to an hour and a half following exercise.
Examples of post-workout snacks and meals include a four- to six-ounce turkey breast and brown rice, a green salad with grilled chicken, or a smoothie with fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt.