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Why is it so important to eat before my workout? What if I workout early in the morning? Do I need to wake up 45 minutes earlier just to eat, then sit and wait for my food to digest before I go workout at 5 am? Isn't sleep equally as important? What if I feel too full to workout? I hate when things are sloshing around in my stomach. I'm just not hungry in the morning. I always forget to eat.
Yep, these are some of the questions and comments I've heard over the years as a trainer. Some of these questions are legit; No, I don't want you to wake up at 4 am to eat 45 minutes before your workout then sit around and wait, that would be rediculous, but make sure you post workout meal is on point. But, some of these comments/questions are really just excuses to justify not getting the results you want because your not eating right. You feel too full to workout? Eat less or eat earlier. Don't like things sloshing around in your stomach, don't drink so much of whatever you're drinking. You forgot to eat? Tell that to a starving child in a third world country. The real problem I find is that most people are not as willing to do the work they say they'll do to get in shape when we initially meet up, especially when they find how much work is involved.
To reap maximum benefits from those hard hours you put in the gym are going to require some thought and organization when it comes to feeding yourself, that's all there is to it. Mind you, I said 'Maximum' benefits, you can and quite possibly experience some results eating crap and working out intensely, but you most definitely will not be reaching your maximum potential. So, if your goal from working out is to eat and drink whatever you want, then read no further. But, if you really want to see your bodies real potential then read on brave one.
Lets talk briefly (and in simple terms) about what your body needs to fuel an intense workout. It's needs Glucose (AKA carbs), water and some protein. Carbohydrates eventually converts to sugar (glucose) and becomes the gasoline to ignite the engine that runs your muscles while you workout. To deprive your body of clean (low glycemic) carbs before an intense workout will force your body to produce fuel by breaking down protein (muscle) and/or fats, depending on what type of workout you're doing. The body will make fuel by breaking down muscle protein and using those amino acids. These amino acids are sent to your liver, where they are converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis; we want to avoid this as much as possible. However, when you are not working out intensely, the body can and most likely will pull it's main fuel source from fats. I know what you're thinking "Well, I just want to burn fat, right? Why not only do less intense workouts all the time?" Because, packing on as much lean muscle on your body will keep your body burning more fat throughout the day as opposed to just when you're doing a light workout. Having more lean muscle will also keep you looking and feeling younger. So, think of it like this, working out like a Marathon runner will keep you lean but you will more thank likely burn muscle as well as fat, but working out intensely, like a sprinter and eating right, will pack on more lean muscle mass.
What to Eat Before your Workout
Examples of clean Carbohydrates (Carbs that are low glycemic) include nuts, beans, pasta, fruits, brown rice, sweet potatoes, all-bran grains and vegetables. An example of a quality preworkout meal is a bowl of rolled oats with a scoop of whey protein, milk and berries.
Here are some more pre workout meals/snack ideas:
A slice of whole wheat bread with one tablespoon of cashew butter.
Some whole wheat crackers with an ounce of mozzarella cheese.
Quarter cup of grapes mixed into half a cup of cottage cheese.
Fruit smoothie made with coconut milk.
An 8oz glass of orange juice with half an apple with a smear of cashew butter.
What to Eat During your Workout
Nutrition during the workout should be extremely simple. By timing the pre-workout meal appropriately you should be starting to have the macronutrients essential for growth entering your blood ready to feed those hungry muscles. Also, the last thing you want during the workout is blood being unnecessarily diverted away from your muscles and to your digestive tract. The workout is the time for giving your muscles all the attention you can, and as such the only thing you should be taking whilst pumping those muscles is water (maybe with some BCAA's), and plenty of it. In order to improve hydration I like to add a pinch of table salt per 500ml of water in order to create a mix more isotonic to the body and increase the my rate of hydration.
What to Eat After your Workout
After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout. Doing this helps your body:
The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:
Fruits (pineapple, berries, apple, kiwi)
Dark, leafy green vegetables
Here are some ideas for post workout meals:
Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
Salmon with sweet potato.
Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
Tuna and whole grain crackers.
Oatmeal, whey protein, apple and macadamia nuts.
Cottage cheese and fruits.
Pita and hummus.
Rice crackers and cashew butter.
Whole grain toast and cashew butter.
Cereal and milk.
Greek yogurt, berries and granola.
Protein shake and an apple.
Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans.
Multi-grain bread and raw macadamias.
I hope this gives you a better idea of how to meal planing around your workouts. Don't let those hours in the gym go to waste by not feeding yourself correctly.
As always, if you have any questions or comment be sure to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.