For many of us, working out is not our favorite past time and we find it difficult to motivate ourselves to get out our running shoes and break a sweat. When we actually do commit to getting some physical activity it is worth ensuring that we are properly fuelled in order to get the most out of it. Also, paying attention to our post-workout diets ensures that we are getting what we need to recover properly.
Carbs For Fuel
Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are all capable of providing energy. However, the main source of fuel for exercise comes from broken down carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates are mainly used for energy in the short term, while fats provide long-term energy storage. Protein is the last source of energy to be used and is broken down for energy when carbohydrates are in short supply. Generally, when someone loses weight on a low-carb diet, half of their weight loss is muscle loss, so it is important to ensure adequate intake of carbohydrates before exercising.
Carbohydrates are stored as “glycogen” in the muscles and the liver. The body can only store a certain amount of this so it needs to be refilled consistently. Carbohydrates are essential for endurance as glycogen is the most important and valuable fuel for any type of exercise. The amount of glycogen stored in your muscles and liver (pre-exercise) has a direct effect on your performance and how fast you become fatigued.
Not only is what you eat important, but also when you eat. The closer you are to the start of your workout, the smaller your meals should be.
2-4 Hours Pre-Workout
Give yourself enough time to digest your last meal before exercising to minimize the chances of stomach discomfort. Choose a meal that emphasizes complex carbohydrates along with some healthy fats and protein. Complex carbs that have a lower glycemic index will lead to a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream, keeping blood levels stable and sustaining energy. These types of foods include whole grains, beans and lentils, etc. An example of such meal could be a bowl of oatmeal with some peanut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon.
30 Minutes Pre-Workout
When you need to get carbs into your bloodstream and muscle cells quickly, choose simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. These foods provide quick energy. Fruit is a perfect example of this type of food. Try a few dates for a quick, tasty pre-workout snack!
Carbs For Recovery
Properly refueling after a workout is just as important as the workout itself. However, the order of nutrients for proper recovery may surprise you.
30 Minutes Post-Workout
Many people have the false impression that the most important thing to do after a workout is load themselves up with protein. However, according to research, the first post-workout step is to replenish your muscle glycogen. This can be done with easily digestible, simple carbohydrates combined in a 4:1 ratio to protein, in order to enhance the uptake of glucose into muscle cells. A good example of this is ½ banana and 1 Tbsp. peanut butter!
1-3 Hours Post-Workout
Once your muscle glycogen is replenished, you can then start to rebuild and repair muscle tissue with a high protein meal. Food sources of protein include, lean meats, eggs, fish, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. It can be difficult to get enough protein from food alone, especially when demands are higher than usual, such as after a training session. Therefore, many people choose a protein powder supplement in order to acquire adequate amounts of protein in a convenient and low-calorie form.
Other Important Considerations
- Joint Care –Consider supplementing with the building blocks of cartilage: glucosamine, collagen, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid or natural egg shell membrane in order to protect and repair soft tissue.
- Reduce Inflammation –Consider natural anti-inflammatories such as an Omega 3–rich foods such as fatty fish and turmeric spice or supplements to decrease muscle soreness and stiffness.
- Rehydration is Key - As you sweat you lose the minerals sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride along with water. No matter the length of your workout, replenishing both electrolytes and water are extremely important.
Choosing raw, organic and grass-fed ingredients is important in giving your body the tools it needs to perform optimally without consuming harmful chemicals and hormones that may counteract your best efforts.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.