If you’re going to invest the time to put yourself through a productive workout, then it’s imperative to nourish your body correctly pre and post workout. Depending on what results you’re trying to accomplish will be what to base your food choices on. There are some variances in someone trying to lose weight and slim down as opposed to someone trying to bulk up or add muscle. A bodybuilder wants to stay in the egg whites and tuna stage whereas someone trying to lose weight would opt for whole wheat pastas and salads. It’s common knowledge that to gain weight you must take in more calories than you burn. To lose weight, you must burn more than you take in.
The first thing to figure out is when to eat. Before you workout your body needs ample time to digest what you’ve put in it. I wouldn’t advise eating lasagna and taking up a spinning class shortly thereafter. Instead, a good rule of thumb is always to wait 1 hour prior to exercise. Post workout nutrition should be eaten NO LONGER than 1 hour after exercise. If you delay eating longer than an hour after your workout then your body begins to take those muscles you just worked so hard to get and deplete them by using them as energy for the rest of the day.
Prior to hitting the gym, the best foods are in the form of carbohydrates. Yes, carbs are by no means bad for you when choosing the right ones. Fit friendly carbs are whole wheat pastas, whole wheat breads (Ezekiel bread by Food for Life is excellent), fruits, cereals, rice or energy bars. Speaking of energy bars, make sure to choose carefully since many of the bars are basically candy bars with nice wrappers that are loaded with sugar! While some people actually prefer to consume some sugar or caffeine before the gym for that added boost of energy, it can still give others the jitters or make them sick so stick to what your body can handle. If you desire a quick sugar fix, get it in naturally and choose a piece of fruit instead.
So what do you actually eat? Stay away from anything fried and anything that is heavy in protein with no carbs. Some food suggestions prior to a workout include:
- Rice cake
- Vegetable juice
- Sports gels or drinks
- Wheat toast
- Bagel with jelly
- Healthy cereal with no-fat milk
Post workout you can increase the protein to restore those muscles. Some suggestions are:
- Apple with peanut butter
- Protein shake
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Chicken (grilled, boiled or baked)
- Brown rice
- Walnuts or almonds
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whey protein
You can always prepare your oatmeal with apple juice instead of water, include one whole egg in with your scrambled egg whites for flavor or put fruit in your cottage cheese. You can spend all day, everyday in the gym but if you don’t eat what your body needs, it defeats the purpose. Don’t just focus on obtaining perfect abs or winning a bodybuilding contest, but to feel good in general and make the most of the work you put in at the gym. It’s a win-win situation when you eat and exercise optimally since your immune system is stronger to fight off illnesses. You also gain more energy and have an all around more productive day!