Food is your body’s fuel. And when you’re following an exercise regimen, your body needs lots and lots of fuel to perform its daily functions and to help you push through a vigorous workout. Imagine attempting to drive you car cross-country without filling up the gas tank. Simply put: you won’t make it through the trip and you will cause your vehicle additional damages when you drive it on an empty tank. Take care of your body and it will take care of you!
When it comes to pre-workout meals, you want to munch on a meal or snack that is packed with carbohydrates and protein. If your body is your vehicle, carbohydrates are the gas you need to keep driving. Carbs help you pedal through a spin class, run long distances and endure intense circuit training courses. When you workout, your body needs glycogen (sugar/energy) to counteract the effects of cortisol, which is the hormone that breaks down muscle. Now, we’re not suggesting you eat a bowl of mashed potatoes or a loaf of bread (please oh please don’t do that), but something like a handful of fruit or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will do you wonders when it comes to exercising.
It’s also important to include protein in your pre-workout snacks. Proteins help rebuilds your body repair and create cells and every cell in the human body contains protein. When you think about working out as a process that wears on and break down your muscles, you quickly understand how important it is to consume something that will help repair these “damages.” Prime sources of protein include nuts, beans, eggs, meat and fish, to name a few. Creating meals or snacks that contain both carbs and protein will help boost your energy levels during a long workout.
Here a few quick, snacks we recommend as a pre-workout meal:
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Oatmeal with milk, fruit and almonds
- An apple with peanut butter
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder
- Egg and veggie scramble
- Rice, chicken and vegetable stir fry
When To Eat a Pre-Workout Meal
Remember when your mom told you not to swim for at least 30 minutes after you eat? Some people used to think it was because your belly was so full of food, you’d sink to the bottom of the pool. This, in fact, is inaccurate and in reality, it is because you run the risk of experiencing the dreaded side stitch. The same applies to eating before working out. When you decide to eat your pre-workout meal is completely up to you and also depends on the size of your meal. We recommend eating no later than 45 minutes before your workout. If you plan on eating something like a chicken and veggie stir fry with a few pieces of toast a big glass of low-fat milk, you should probably allow yourself at least a two-hour gap between your workout and your meal. If you are learning towards a cup of Greek yogurt with blueberries as your snack, you are probably safe allowing yourself between 45 minutes to an hour.
You know how you feel after an intense workout—tired, drained, worn out (but hopefully also amazing and proud of your efforts). The importance of eating after a workout lies in the notion that you need to rebuild everything you “broke down” during your workout. Side note: Breaking down and rebuilding muscle is how you actually get the “gains” you’re seeking during a workout. As we mentioned earlier, you need protein to rebuild and restore your muscles, and when you create a post-workout meal, you should focus heavily on protein content. You will also need to work carbohydrates into your meal to restore the glycogen that your body lost while you worked out.
Here a few quick, snacks we recommend as a post-workout meal:
- Banana and peanut butter shake
- Turkey, veggie, cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread
- Protein bar
- Tuna on whole grain crackers
- Low-fat chocolate milk
- Protein pancakes with blueberries
When To Eat a Post-Workout Meal
Choosing when to eat your post-workout meal again goes back to personal preference. Some people don’t feel good eating directly after a workout while others are completely famished and want to eat immediately. If you have done an extremely intense workout, it’s best to eat as soon after your workout as possible. Slipping a protein bar or pre-made banana and peanut butter shake into your gym bag is a great idea. If you are someone who doesn’t feel hungry until after you get home and want to eat a larger meal, try to eat within two hours of completing your workout. Your body will thank you!
What About Supplements?
For the most part, the majority of things we need to help our bodies during a workout can be found naturally in our diet. However, if you are someone who is working to become a professional bodybuilder, supplements will be a great dietary to your already wholesome and healthy diet.
If you are interested in adding supplements to your pre- or post-workout regimen, here are four supplements we recommend taking a look at:
- Whey protein: You know how we keep emphasizing the importance of protein and the role it plays in repairing and rebuilding your body after a workout? Well here we go again. Whey is a fast-digesting protein that will act as an added to boost to help your body rebuild muscle more rapidly.
- Creatine: This supplement is one of the more popular in the world of exercise and athletics. Many professional athletes swear by creatine because of its ability to help improve strength and stamina. Creatine also helps quicken the time it takes for muscles to recover and provides athletes achieve bursts of energy during short periods of activity. Creatine is also found naturally in fish and red meats.
- Fish oil: We know, it sounds a little fishy (we’re punny, huh?), but incorporating fish oil into your diet is incredibly beneficial to your overall help. Fish oil is a concentrated source of omega-3 fats, which is an essential fat that our body needs. From reducing the risk of diabetes to boosting your immune system and reducing inflammation, we could go on and on about the benefits of including fish oil in your diet.
- Multivitamins: Even if you are following a wholesome dietary plan, it’s likely you are lacking in several essential vitamins that your body needs. Taking a multivitamin will help restore whichever vitamins you need more of. Also make sure your multivitamin contains minerals because our bodies do not produce minerals naturally.
If you are interested in learning more about the proper diet to complement your exercise regimen, or perhaps you want to kick up the intensity of your workout routine, give the pros at Twisted Cycle a call today! We are here for you and offer a variety of indoor cycling and cross-training classes. Sign up online or stop by our location in Kennesaw. We look forward to working out with you soon!