All driven up for an exciting exercise regimen or coming after an intense workout and happy your job is done? Nope think again, the one thing that can make or break your fitness journey is the food you eat before and after your workout.
To tone up and stay healthy and fit, workout and a good diet need to go hand in hand. And by diet, it does not imply breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are working out strenuously, then you got to check your snacking habits too. Fitness experts suggest against ignoring both pre and post-workout snacks.
Sometimes individuals working out hard in the gym can wreck their efforts due to poor nutrition. The nutritional needs during workouts vary based on the person, types of exercise they perform and their goals whether it is maintenance, weight loss or gain, fat loss, muscle building and so on.
Most of you may have concerns about what to eat before and after a workout. In our second series of gym guidelines, we bring some snacking ideas that will keep you in tip-top shape pre and post-workout.
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Why is It Essential To Snack?
Well, while working out, the muscles use up their glycogen, the body’s fuel source, especially during high-intensity workouts. This results in muscles being depleted of glycogen partially and some amounts of proteins in the muscles are also broken down and damaged.
Post-workout, the body tries hard to rebuild its glycogen stores as well as repair and restore muscle proteins. Thus, eating the right nutrients soon after exercise can help the body replenish lost nutrients rapidly. It is pivotal to fuel the body with healthy carbs and protein after a workout.
Fuelling the body helps to:
- Lower muscle protein breakdown
- Improve muscle protein synthesis
- Restore glycogen stores
- Promote recovery
If you have ever felt like you’ve hit a wall halfway through the workout session or felt low, then it is because your body’s energy stores were empty before you even started working out. Carbohydrates are the chief energy source utilised by the brain, central nervous system and muscles to carry out regular functions. It is vital to have a carb-packed snack 30-60 minutes prior to a workout to supply the body with the fuel it needs.
Pre-workout nutrition goals are to:
- Provide enough energy for the body to withstand exercise
- Promote endurance and performance level during the workout
- Reserve muscle and liver glycogen, which helps the body to repair and build lean muscle
- Lessen digestive issues
A pre-workout snack is essential for those performing heavy lifting, HIIT training, spinning, running etc.
Focus on superior quality, carb-dense snacks and try multiple options to see what makes you feel best. If you have had a balanced meal a couple of hours before a workout, then you may not require a pre-workout snack.
Pre-Workout Food Options –mainly carbohydrates & a small amount of protein
- Fruits - banana, orange, berries, apple, pear
- Dried fruits- dates, apricots, cherries
- Fruit mix -2-3 dates & peanut butter
- Whole grain toast & a slice of cheese
- Sweet potato drizzled with peanut butter
- Fruit-based bar or energy bar
Based on your fitness goals – fat loss, weight loss, weight gain, building muscle mass or overall health, the composition of your post-workout meals will differ. It is recommended to have a meal or snack within 2 hours post workout to replenish the body.
Post-workout nutrition goals are to:
- Refill muscle fuel (carbs) used during the workout
- Provide adequate protein to repair damaged muscles and support muscle synthesis
- Restore fluids and electrolytes lost during exercise
- Supply the system with antioxidants to lessen inflammation, trigger the immune system and speed up recovery
It is important to have a combination of carbohydrates and protein rich meals/snacks post the workout. This supports your muscle’s ability to replenish the glycogen and helps it to repair and rebuild with the available protein. Try to eat within an hour of finishing a strenuous workout.
Post-Workout Meal Options – carbohydrates, protein and moderate/low amount of fat
- Smoothie (made with low-fat milk and fruit)
- Low-fat flavoured milk
- Whole grain egg/chicken wrap with veggies
- Yoghurt with fresh fruits
- Boiled eggs and toast
- Oatmeal, seeds and fruits
- Guacamole, carrots and lean meat slices
- Banana and protein shake
- Protein bar
Celebrity fitness trainer and Pilates expert Yasmin Karachiwala who trains Deepika Padukone on many occasions suggested going for a banana and seven almonds post cardio or a smoothie made with almond milk, banana, gluten-free oats and yoghurt or avocado-coconut milk, banana and oatmeal smoothie. If it is strength training, she suggests that you get your proteins from two eggs.
Yasmin says that before suggesting a snack, the nutritional requirement is evaluated based on the body type, amount of energy spent during the workout and activities scheduled for the rest of the day.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods are to be strictly avoided like rich, oily foods, as fats take a longer time to digest which can result in stomach upset. For a few people, fibre-loaded or protein-packed foods don’t work with exercise. Everyone is different, so it is essential to pay attention to what works for you.