Before we talk about which foods you should eat to get more from your workouts, let’s quickly put to rest a nasty myth.
Not eating before your workout, with the idea that it will reduce fat levels and improve your BMI and muscle definition, is a misguided notion that can have the complete opposite effect to what you expect.
Your body has a powerful instinct for survival. From the moment that it senses any threat to its energy levels and/or energy storage, it sets off alarms. It’s why you feel hungry. When your body doesn’t get sufficient energy, a couple things can happen. The first one is what you expect. Robbed of enough energy, your body will burn calories from the fat it has stored.
But it’s the second defensive action your body takes that delivers the results you don’t expect; results that can not only reduce the effectiveness of your workout, but it can be harmful to your body and system.
When your body detects a threat to its energy levels, it can slow down your metabolism to lower its energy consumption. This reduces your daily calorie requirements, which means that, even if you restrict your calorie intake, you might still be consuming more than your body burns – resulting in added weight. A slower metabolism will also lower the energy levels you have for your workout.
In addition to reducing energy burn, your body fires up its primal instincts to get you to find and consume food. Very often that results in a higher overall daily calorie intake than if you ate before your workout.
Give Your Body the Energy it Needs to Maximize Your Workout
Eating the right foods before and after your workout can drastically change your workout experience. Workouts stress your body. The more fuel it has, the better your body can manage the stress and turn it into the results you want to achieve.
So what should you be eating and when?
Before Workouts: Have a snack with Carbs AND Protein 45 minutes to an hour before your workout. Carbs will give you the sustained energy you need to power through your workout and the protein will help feed your muscles. A good pre-workout snack would be rice cakes with natural almond butter.
Eating at the right interval before the workout, and only consuming snack portions, makes sure your body isn’t over-burdened with simultaneously digesting too much food and working out.
After Workouts: Refuel with Protein & Carbs within 15 to 20 minutes following your workout. Protein is especially important if you are weight training because of how important they are for the recovery and building of muscle. Carbs will replenish your glycogen and glucose (energy) and help you feel full so you don’t go home and fall victim to your body’s energy demands.
A good post-workout snack would be a whey protein shake and a banana (if you need something quick) or Greek yogurt with berries.
One final note on eating before and after your workouts: Always opt for whole foods instead of shakes/bars when possible. Your body gets more balanced energy and nutrients from whole foods, and that not only helps our workout, but it’s better for your body too.