Ever been working out and feel like you’ve hit a wall? Or had the best workout ever and wish you could have that feeling every time? It probably had something to do with what you ate that impacted your workout. Different types of activities require different types of nutrition in order to help our bodies power through. Three hours before your work out, you want to eat foods that will give you sustainable energy. They will boost your performance, keep you hydrated, preserve muscle mass and speed recovery. Here are some tips that will help you fuel your body properly pre-workout, and recover effectively.
LOW INTENSITY SPORTS
Before a workout you want to avoid heavy, slow digesting foods like fat and high fibre veggies that can cause cramps, bloating and gas. More easily digestible carbs found in lots of fruits and veggies (e.g. banana, sweet potato, berries, etc.) are going to give your body an immediate source of energy without having a negative effect on your digestion. Consuming a little bit of protein is also a great idea pre-workout. For timing, if you’re having a full meal, make sure you give yourself at least 2-3 hours before the class. If you have less time, stick to a smaller snack like a smoothie, a banana, some nuts and seeds, etc. One of our favourite go-to snacks before a yoga class is banana protein smoothie with frozen banana, spinach, a almond butter, nut milk and protein powder. The protein and fat from the almond butter will slow the release of the sugar into your bloodstream, providing a more sustainable form of energy.
With low impact sports, it’s not as important to eat something specific right away for recovery. What you’re going to eat will depend more on the time of day. For example, for an early morning class, you’re going to want to fuel your body for the rest of the day with a balanced meal afterward. If it’s an evening class, you want a lighter meal that will help refuel your body but won’t ruin your sleep.
HIGH INTENSITY SPORTS
The key to pre-workout nutrition, especially high intensity workouts, is to fuel yourself properly. We suggest eating a moderate amount of carbs and small amount of protein pre-workout. Again, if you have that 2-3 hour window before a workout you can consume a full meal. For example, oatmeal or overnight oats with berries and nut butter, whole grain toast with hummus or quinoa with veggies. But if you have less than 2 hours, you should stick to something smaller and more easily digestible. This can be a protein smoothie with a banana, protein powder and nut milk, a banana with almond butter, energy balls or granola bars.
The biggest nutritional concern post-workout is replacing energy stores and repairing muscles that have been broken down during the intense workout. Again, a combination of carbohydrates and protein has been shown to be most effective post-workout. Research shows that a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes to an hour of completing a HIIT workout is best for replacing energy stores. Our suggestions for post-workout are similar to pre-workout meals/snacks. These can include a protein shake, sprouted grain breads, sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, long grain rices, small amounts of meat, fish, etc.
We consider endurance activities to be anything from hiking, long distance running to biking – anything over 90 minutes.
As we mentioned, carbohydrates (and the glucose they provide us with) are the body’s principal source for fuel. Your body is smart and it stores some of this glucose away for a time of need – this is called glycogen. However, the body’s glycogen stores are limited, and the maximum we can store is 300-600 grams. This is mostly found in your muscle cells and liver. This amount of storage allows for up to 90 minutes of activity until that resource of glycogen is exhausted. At that point, you need to refuel in order to keep going and avoid fatigue.
Starchy vegetables are important to include pre and post endurance activity. Great examples include steel cut oats, sweet potato, or quinoa. We also always love smoothies. A great pre-workout smoothie would be lower in fat, moderate in protein and high in carbs. You can make a smoothie with almond milk, banana, and blueberries. You can also try adding in some nut butter and maca for an extra kick!
Only endurance athletes that will be working out longer than 90 minutes will need to be concerned with having food during their workout. After the glycogen stores are gone, you will need to refuel the tanks. This is why so many sports gels and bars have hit the market. Sports drinks are also appropriate for endurance activities and can offer the body some glucose, sodium and potassium. Coconut water is considered to be “nature’s sports drink” as it offers all of these essentials in a perfect balance.
After a long activity, the focus should be on replenishing all of the glycogen stores your body just burned through, as well as avoid muscle injury. You are going to want to prioritize carbs and protein post endurance workout. Additionally, try to drink 16 ounces of fluid for every pound you sweat off during your run.
To sum it up, it’s really important what and when we eat before and after a workout. As a general rule of thumb, unless you have 2-3 hours before your workout, avoid big meals, or anything that is going to be tough to digest, like a lot of fat or high fibre fruits and veggies. Refueling after a workout, in that 30 minute to one hour window is also going to be very important so that we can replenish our glycogen stores (which we have likely burned through in a high intensity or endurance workout) and to eat some protein to help reduce muscle damage. Please keep in mind that these are general suggestions and that everyone’s bodies are different as our diets. If for example you’re following a diet like the Ketogenic Diet (high fat, low carb) then you are going to of course tailor your pre and post workout meals and snacks to that diet. Always do what works best for your body.
For more steps to an effective workout, click here.