Sometimes it feels as if you can crush that workout. Other times, it may feel like that workout crushed you. Maybe you just started an exercise routine and are not seeing the results you hoped for. Or you are getting injured more easily than you used to or those injuries aren’t healing as fast as they should. Before you chalk it up to aging, take a look at what you are eating. When we exercise, our body uses the energy from the foods we eat in order to fuel itself. It also uses that fuel to repair itself. Properly fueling before and after exercise is key to getting the most out of our workout.
Before the Workout:
When working out in the early morning hours, a quick 100-200 calories is ideal. A combination relying heavily on carbohydrates with a little bit of protein and fat is the key. A half a banana or ½ an apple with nut butter works well and is easily tolerated by most people. Whole wheat toast with avocado is also delicious and easy to make. For workouts later in the day, we recommend eating about 1 hour beforehand. If you are in the “5 am“ club and hit the gym very early, your body may not tolerate more than a few bites, but try to get at least those few bites.
After the Workout:
After a good sweat session, the body requires proper fuel in order to begin the repair process. The optimal window to eat is about 15-60 minutes after working out. This is when the body is most primed to efficiently replace the muscle glycogen used during the workout and begin to repair your muscles. For high intensity workouts, a snack of 15-25 g of protein and about 30-60 g of carbohydrates works well. This may look like a whole wheat sandwich with turkey or chicken with lettuce, tomato and hummus. A protein shake can also work well here, just be sure to watch the sugar content of your drink. Aim for the lower end of the range if you are smaller or the workout was less than an hour long. Aim for the higher end if you are larger or if the workout was an hour or longer.
If your workout is of the more moderate kind, a simple snack similar to your before-workout fuel is sufficient.
Fruit or yogurt smoothie
Whole wheat toast with egg and cheese
Cereal with milk (keep the added sugar to less than 9 g per serving.)
Granola bar (Keep the added sugar to below 9 g per serving.)
Vegetables and hummus or guacamole
Kristin Metzler recently received her Master’s Degree of Nutrition from NC State and started working with Total Nutrition Technology in March. A minivan-driving, soccer mom of 3, she knows how hard it is to feed a busy family nutritious food. She believes that if “healthy doesn’t taste good, you are doing it wrong.” You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the TNT website at Nutrition Technology – Nutrition Plan Weight Loss Programs.