To get the most out of exercise, your body needs proper nutrition pre and post workout. Here are some of the best whole food nutritional sources.
The basic needs of your body before and after a workout are similar. Before your workout, you need carbohydrates to give you an energy supply and protein to help your body maintain muscle tissue. The protein piece is especially important if you are preparing for a long workout. The body can break down muscle tissue for fuel when it runs out of the glycogen supplied by carbs.
After your workout, you also need carbs and protein. Now that you have worked out, you need to restock the energy supply to get you through the rest of the day. You will want a larger amount of protein-rich foods for post-workout muscle fiber repair. But what should you be eating before and after the workout specifically?
Supplements versus Natural Foods
If you go into any sporting goods store, you can find loads of workout bars and supplements that are meant to give you the nutrients you need before and after a workout. While supplements are not always a negative, there are many benefits that natural foods hold over supplements.
- Cost – In general, workout supplements are more expensive than natural foods.
- Sugar – Many of these products make themselves more appealing with added sugars or sugar alcohols. This can be a concern for people with blood sugar issues.
- Density – With these products, it is easy to consume more calories than you will burn off in an average workout.
In most cases, sticking with natural food sources is a better choice than consuming workout supplements.
There may be exceptions for athletes who are doing especially long workouts where consuming enough calories ahead of time will be an issue. However, preparing and reviving your body on only supplements is never enough. Your body should have a consistent diet of natural foods already in place before considering additional supplements.
Natural Foods Before a Workout
One of the challenges about eating before a workout is getting the energy you need without starting your exercise with a full stomach. It is recommended that you fuel up one to three hours beforehand. You may need to experiment to figure what the best timing is for your metabolism. While you need carbs and protein, you will want to avoid foods with high amounts of fiber or complex carbohydrates. These substances will slow down digestion and can cause discomfort during your workout.
Some carbohydrate choices before a workout include:
- Toast or English muffins
- Greek yogurt
- Rice cakes
- Peeled apple slices
- Most citrus fruits
Pre-workout protein sources still need to be easily digested. You want sources that are lower in fat for this purpose.
Some good pre-workout proteins are:
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Low-fat Milk
- Turkey or chicken
Natural Foods After a Workout
Once you are done with your workout, it is time to refuel. You still need carbs and protein, but now you will want foods that digest more slowly. This is especially important for people who are trying to lose weight. Food that is easily digested after a workout can leave you feeling hungry later in the day, which may lead to unhealthy snacking. This is the time for foods that are higher in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Ideally, you will eat something substantial within 30 minutes of your workout. If this is not possible, try eating something high in carbs like a banana that can help you stay on track until you can prepare a proper meal.
Choices for carbs after a workout include:
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole fruits like apples and pears
- Sweet potatoes
Post-workout protein sources:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Sunflower seeds
Natural foods can give you all the nutrients you need to have a great workout. Your body is made to eat real food, and additional supplements, while they can be beneficial, should never be your main source of energy. Making these healthy choices will lead to better workouts and improved well-being.
Thinking of starting a new exercise routine? Consider working with a personal trainer who can design an optimal training regimen — and keep you motivated — for reaching your goals.
You may also enjoy Interview: Vani Hari | The Truth About the Lies We’re Fed with Kristen Noel