If getting in shape and staying in shape requires the proper balance of exercise and healthy food, how can we best maximize our workouts by eating the right foods before, during and after exercising?
Why Eat Before a Workout?
You will burn about the same amount of fat whether you eat before a workout or you don’t. Personal trainer and nutrition researcher Patrick Owen PhD. states that you can actually promote muscle loss if you work out on an empty stomach.
This is somewhat contrary to some of the advice circulating which states that you can better mobilize fat stores when you workout on an empty stomach.
The problem with this, states Owen is that the fat that is used for workouts comes from deep within muscles, not from surface fat stores. Once exercise is completed, any fats not oxidized return to the adipose tissue.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology notes that nitrogen losses from protein breakdown doubled when exercise occurred in a fasting state. This makes it very difficult to build muscle mass.
When you are hungry, your body dives into self preservation mode and draws protein from the muscle instead of from the liver and kidneys. Because of this, you lose muscle mass, which in the end slows your metabolism and makes it much harder to lose weight. This is basic physiology. You are not doing yourself any benefits working out on an empty stomach.
Why Eat After a Workout?
While exercising, your body uses fuel stored in your muscles called glycogen for energy. After you have finished your exercise session, muscles are depleted of glycogen stores and are broken down.
Eating or drinking something that contains high quality carbohydrates and proteins 30 minutes to an hour after you have finished working out builds and repairs muscles that were broken down and fuels your metabolic furnace.
Don’t wait any longer than one hour after your exercise to refuel. If you wait two hours, you will reduce the body’s ability to refill muscle stores by 50 percent. If you work out away from home, bring something with you to eat when you are finished.
What About a Mid Workout Snack?
Shorter, low-intensity workouts can use energy that is stored. Refueling mid-workout is usually not required. However, a little extra boost can really help during high-intensity, long duration exercise sessions or competitive sports events such as distance running.The most effective fuel sources are those that come from simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates, protein and fats take a while to digest and cannot provide the immediate energy that simple carbohydrates can. When you need a quick energy boost try bananas and plenty of water or, if you are a long-distance runner, try sun-dried raisins for convenience.
Best Before Workout Foods
According to Owen, about 70% of energy in a pre-workout meal should be comprised of carbs, but this means quality carbs. Try these three great pre-workout snacks/meals for optimal performance and energy.
Cottage Cheese and Berries – 1/2 cup of cottage cheese mixed with 1/2 cup of berries is a great pre-workout snack. You can add a banana if you need added endurance. Consume this tasty mixture about an hour before working out.
Veggie Omelet – use 2 whole eggs, onions, mushrooms and pepper and fry your omelet in coconut oil. Consume two hours before exercise and add a grapefruit if you are going to be doing a lot of cardio work.
Mocha Protein Shake – mix 1 cup of organic iced coffee with 1 cup of whey protein and blend. Consume 30 – 60 minutes before you workout.
Best After Workout Foods
According to health experts, optimizing your sensitivity to insulin is the key for maintaining optimal health. Eating fewer carbohydrates after exercise can help increase your insulin sensitivity.
Animal protein provides amino acids and, along with carbohydrates from vegetables, will help to rebuild glycogen stores. Try these three post workout foods for best results:
Chicken and Salad – a palm-size piece of pasture raised chicken along with a dark and leafy green salad made with spinach or Swiss chard
Organic Eggs and Fruit – make some scrambled free range eggs and have a side of mixed fruit such as apricots, plums, cantaloupes or berries
Whey Protein Shake – an organic whey protein shake and a cup of organic peas or beans
Worst Workout Foods
Stay clear of these foods as they offer no nutritional value and will not help you maximize your workout efforts:
- Fruit juices
- Energy drinks
- Vitamin water
- Sports drinks
- High-sugar protein/ energy bars
- Highly processed foods
- “Sugar-free” foods
-The Alternative Daily