Regardless of your fitness goals, trying to work out on an empty stomach or not eating after a workout can be detrimental to your health. If you are going to push your body harder than it is used to going, you need the fuel to get you there and refueling after a workout session is just as important.
Being thoughtful about what you eat pre- and post-workout is almost as important as the workout itself. Supplements are not going to cut it here, though. You will need real, nutritious food to fuel a good workout and help muscle recovery afterwards.
Experimenting with different fueling methods during your training can help you find what works best for you. Food should become a regular part of your training plan. Here are some guidelines for good pre- and post-workout nutrition.
Not eating before a workout can have disastrous consequences. You can feel lightheaded or dizzy, causing you to stop your workout short. You might even feel nauseated which will really cause you some distress during your workout. Skipping a pre-workout snack will harmfully influence your workout performance and inhibit your gains.
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are good for you. They supply you with much-needed energy when working out. If you do not have enough glucose in your system while working out, you are more likely to feel tired and weak, which may cause you to stop early. Simple, quick carbs like granola, Greek yogurt, or a piece of toast before a workout are great because they can be digested quickly and provide a boost of energy.
Protein is handy as well. If you are doing any kind of weight training, you should be eating a bit of protein before your workout, as when you lift weights, you create micro tears in your muscle fiber. Your body needs protein to repair your muscles and help them grow stronger. Sources of proteins like nuts, hardboiled eggs, and milk are great for pre-workout snacks because they are easily digestible.
Hydration is also equally as important as nutrition when you are hitting the gym. A good rule of thumb for measuring your levels of hydration is the “pee test.” The color of your urine is a good guideline to use when trying to judge your hydration levels. The darker your urine, the lower the levels of water in your system are. Urine that is lighter in color indicates appropriate levels of hydration.
There is no uniform recommendation for how much water you need to drink while exercising. Listening to your body is the best way to gauge how much water you should be drinking. The goal is to avoid dehydration without drinking too much water. Drinking when you are thirsty is a good place to start but listening to your body should come first.
Timing is also very important when it comes to fueling your workout. Eating anywhere from three hours to thirty minutes before your workout is ideal. You are not still digesting when you get to the gym and you also have not used up all of the calories. Again, listening to your body is key here to find the right timeframe.
Eating after a workout is arguably more important that eating beforehand. You need to replace the calories that you burned during activity, as well as helping muscles recover. If you avoid eating after a workout, fatigue will last much longer, and you will have to contend with low blood sugar. Reaching your fitness goals will be much harder.
Eating soon after the end of a workout is key, especially if you worked hard during your workout. Try not to wait more than thirty minutes before refueling the body. A light snack will do the trick, followed by a larger portion or meal a few hours later.
Just like fueling your body pre-workout, post-workout fuel should include carbs as well as protein. Remember those tears in your muscles. This time, however, you do not need to worry about quick and easy digestion. You can branch out into more complex carbohydrates, like quinoa, nuts, and brown rice, and healthy protein, like beans, fish, and tofu.
Rehydrating soon after your workout ends is also crucial. During your workout, you lost a lot of water as sweat, so putting the water back into your body is important. It might even be more important that refueling. Using your urine as a guideline again will be helpful but listening to your body will usually give you the right results for your own composition.
Most importantly, do not overdo it. It is easy to consume more than you burned in your workout. If you are trying to gain weight, that is not necessarily a bad thing, but if your goal is to maintain or lose weight, this is not the ideal situation. Keeping your post-workout snacks and meals in the lower calorie range should help.
These are just strategies, not rules. They are merely guidelines and suggestions. Everybody is different and your needs will be different from the next person. Experimenting with what pre- and post-workout foods work for you as well as what you need for hydration will help you take your fitness goals to the next level. Here is a recap for you
- Before a workout, fueling your body with easily digestible carbs and protein will help you maintain energy throughout the workout.
- Staying hydrated during your workout is also important. Use the “pee test!”
- Remember to listen to your body so you do not overeat or under hydrate.
- After a workout, it is more important to refuel your body than it was pre-workout. Eating plenty of complex carbs and protein will help replenish your body and help muscles recover.
- Rehydrating after your workout is also important, as you lost water as sweat.
- Do not overdo it. Watch your caloric intake and keep it within a reasonable level.
- Always listen to your body!
- Experiment with different methods of fueling your body as well as different levels of hydration to find what works for you.