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As a sports nutritionist I work with clients who earn a living working up a sweat. But whether you’re a pro or you get your adrenaline pumping before or after your nine to five, there’s a science to what you should eat before and after to maximize your workout and recovery from the wear and tear it puts on your body. Here are five rules of thumb to keep in mind.
Keep Your Tummy Happy
Choose pre-workout meals or snacks that are easy to digest and won’t cause bloating or irritate your stomach. In other words, a spicy bean burrito isn’t the best choice. If your food’s not digested before or during your workout, the fuel will be trapped in your stomach and won’t be available to your muscles, and providing fuel is the main goal of a pre-exercise meal. Also, undigested food can feel like a brick sitting in your stomach, leading to cramps and sluggishness.
Keep It Simple
The best pre-activity foods are those relatively low in protein, fat and fiber. These three substances delay the emptying of the stomach and keep you fuller longer. That’s great if you’ll be sitting at a desk for the next several hours, but not so great if you’ll be in high-activity mode. So, a good pre-workout snack might be something like a bowl of low-fiber, whole-grain cereal (like puffed brown rice or unsweetened organic corn flakes) with organic milk or almond milk and a mini banana about an hour before.
Before, During And After:
It’s important to drink fluids before, during and after your workout. If you’re sweating heavily or exercising for more than 60 minutes, reach for coconut water rather than a sports drink to keep you well-hydrated and fueled and replace the electrolytes lost in sweat. If you’re working out for an hour or less in a climate controlled gym plain H2O should be fine.
Time It Right
After a really tough workout, you should try to eat a “recovery” meal within 30 minutes if possible. Training puts wear and tear on your joints, muscles and bones, and your body “uses up” nutrients during exercise, so this meal is all about putting back what you’ve lost and providing the raw materials needed for repair and healing.
Balance Is Key
A post-workout meal isn’t just about protein. It should include a lean protein source (for muscle repair) along with a whole grain (to replete glycogen, the carbohydrate stored in muscle tissue, which serves as a primary fuel source during exercise), plenty of produce (to replenish nutrients), a healthy fat source (for healing and circulation) and of course more fluid (to rehydrate).
The Perfect Post Workout Smoothie:
- 1-2 Frozen Bananas
- 1 heaped tablespoon of nut butter (choice of almond, organic peanut or cashew nut)
- 1 ½ Cup Almond Milk (or your choice of milk)
- Optional additions (organic whey protein concentrate powder, raw cacao, raw egg, cinnamon, flax, chia etc.)
Blend until rich and creamy, and then you’ll have it – an all-natural, protein-rich post workout smoothie that will optimally nourish your body. The perfect smoothie for efficient replenishment of glycogen stores within our skeletal muscles.