What to eat, and not to eat before and after a workout?
When it comes to preparing for a gym workout or a long run outside, carbohydrates (both complex and simple) are your best bet as they both provide you energy. However, to get the most out of your workout, you need to eat the right carbs. Complex carbs, such as whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, rice, and vegetables, are high in fiber and minerals. Simple carbohydrates, such as cookies, pies, and cake, are broken down quickly by the body. If you think about it, complex carbs take longer for the body to break down and releases energy at a slower pace, which provides you with energy over a longer period of time. However, simple carbs will provide you with energy for a short period of time and have little nutritional value. Therefore, you will have a more successful workout if you stick to complex carbs.
Now that we have an understanding of what complex and simple carbs are, and why complex carbs are a better choice for pre-workout food, what are some good options for preparing for a run and weight training?
If you want something to eat before running, one snack that will give you energy and keep you full is a whole wheat bread, peanut butter and banana sandwich. It gives you both types of carbs and the banana adds an extra boost of energy. If you arevin the mood for something a little lighter, opt for one cup of low fiber cereal with skim milk. The milk gives you a bit of protein while the cereal has carbs to keep you energized.
If you are about to lift weights, whether light or heavy, you need carbs to prevent you from being hungry right away. A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit has the right carbs and minerals and is a go-to for many weight lifters. Oatmeal will slowly release sugar into your bloodstream and stays with you throughout your workout. Having fruit on top, such as blueberries, will help keep you hydrated. If you have a sweet tooth and are craving something that won't slow you down before you workout, slice up an apple and pair it with some almond butter. It increases your energy levels and you will avoid a sugar crash while filling up on vitamins and minerals.
What you eat before a workout is just as important as what you eat after a workout. Protein, along with carbohydrates and fat, is essential for the human body and is important if you want to build and maintain muscle. Post workout meals are meant to help with muscle recovery, so it's important to fuel up on protein rather then carbs. How much protein you eat post workout is different for everyone, depending on what your goal is. However, the general amount of protein after a workout is at least 20-30 grams. It may sound like a lot, but combining some protein rich foods will get you to that amount. After any workout, especially running, it's most important to restore fluids, so drink water or a sports drink with electrolytes.
If you just finished a long run, your go-to post snacks/meals could include an omelette with a slice of whole wheat toast, a salad with lean meat or fish, or sliced banana with a side of nut butter.
To maintain and recover the muscles you just worked out, protein shakes are a quick and easy post workout snack, especially if you're planning to do a few errands directly after the gym. One scoop of protein powder contains about 20-30 grams of protein and then you can add a scoop of peanut butter for some extra protein, a banana and milk (any kind will work).
If you're not craving a smoothie, a cup of plain Greek yogurt (usually around 23 grams of protein) is a great option. Combine it with cinnamon, and some berries and you have yourself a healthy post workout snack. Try and stay away from fruit flavored yogurts, as it contains sugar, and top plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon and/or honey and fresh fruit! Other protein rich foods include chicken, turkey, and fish. You can easily combine some chicken, or cod, with brown rice and vegetables and you can get a well rounded meal of protein and carbs. It's a good idea to switch up your pre and post workout meals every once in a while so you're not sticking to the same old meals all the time.
To find out more of what to eat before and after a workout, talk with your physician or nutritionist.