Here at 50/50, our members take their exercise seriously. Between spin classes, bootcamp-style group fitness, strength training, and training for 5Ks and triathlons, our members definitely know how to stay active. However, how often do you stop and think about how you are fueling these workouts? Are you getting adequate pre- and post-workout nutrition? Are you eating enough calories to sustain your energy through your weekly workouts?
First, with nutrition as with exercise, it’s important to have a clear goal in mind. If you’re looking to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit, meaning you are burning more calories than you’re consuming. However, it’s important that this caloric deficit isn’t too large, or it will have negative impacts on your energy levels, training results, recovery, and metabolism. If you’re trying to build lean muscle or gain overall size, you need to be in a caloric surplus. If your goal is to lose body fat while building muscle, eating at a maintenance calorie level while adjusting your protein, fat, and carb levels can help you attain this goal. If you’re training for a marathon or other endurance event, it is imperative that you take in enough calories, particularly carbohydrates, to fuel your long training runs. The moral of the story – the outcome goal matters.
It’s also very important to eat the right foods before and after your workouts to maximize your results. How many times have you had a workout that didn’t quite feel like your best effort? Maybe you felt a little lightheaded or sluggish, or maybe you experienced muscle cramps during the workout. Your nutrition plays a huge role in all of these! It’s important to ingest a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before your workout to ensure you have enough energy to complete the workout. You should eat something that will sustain your energy, improve your performance, help you recover quickly, and hydrate your body. Signs that you haven’t had enough to eat before your workout include lightheadedness, dizziness, and slow recovery. Eating protein in the few hours prior to your workout will boost your muscle-building capabilities, help you recover faster from workouts, and provide sustained energy. Ingesting carbs before a workout, such as a piece of fruit, will enhance your energy, particularly for high-intensity or longer endurance-type workouts.
Finally, what you eat post-workout also plays a huge role in your ability to recover and bounce back for your next workout session. It is also important in achieving the goals you set out to accomplish during your training sessions. Post-workout nutrition should help you rehydrate, recover and refuel, build muscle, and improve your future performance. Most importantly, eat a meal high in protein right after exercise to prevent the breakdown of proteins in your bloodstream and stimulate protein synthesis, which leads to increases in muscle tissue. Eating protein post-workout will also help alleviate some of the delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) that you may feel after a particularly challenging workout. Second, your body tolerates and processes carbohydrates most efficiently in the 3-hour window post-workout, so this is your best window to eat your starchier carbs. Eating carbs after exercise will replenish your glycogen stores, which have been spent during your workout, and will also improve your ability to bounce back and come back stronger for your next workout. And last but not least, staying hydrated and drinking sufficient water before, during, and after all your workouts is one of the most important steps you can take to properly fuel your body and achieve the results you’re looking for.