Learning to eat around your training is the simplest way to take your health and fitness to the next level. You can train as hard as you like and as many times a week as you like, but if you fail to feed your body with the right nutrition then you’re missing out on most of the benefits. Good nutrition and fluid intake is not only the key to enhancing performance but also recovery.
So let’s break this down a little into something you are going to understand and implement.
The Three Major Macronutrients you need to know
Protein- no it’s not going to make you the next Arnold Schwarzenegger if you start upping your intake. It has a big place in your diet, as it is responsible for the building and repairing of all your tissues. The richest sources of protein come from animal foods including meat, fish, eggs and dairy with soybeans being a good option for vegans. I’m sure you are also well aware that protein powders are very readily available as a convenient supplement to ‘real food’. These supplements should only be used when there is a lack of time to prepare an alternative.
You’ll be happy to know that these are your body’s mains source of energy. The body converts carbohydrates (‘carbs’) into glucose, which is your ideal fuel! It’s time to think pasta, rice, oats, sweet potato, pumpkin, and fruit- just to name a few as complex carbohydrates.
Good fats are essential for your all round good health and play a key role in maintaining the structure and function of your vital organs. They are also hugely responsible for your level of satisfaction. Not only do they protect you from harm and cold, they are also another major energy source to keep you going. Opt for olive and nut oils, nuts, seeds and avocado when looking at good fats.
Alcohol – this one calls for another blog post!
It’s important to note that your body will use carbohydrates as your main source of energy, then fats. It’s also important to factor in your individual ability to feel comfortable with food in your stomach during exercise. On average, most people find consuming a pre-workout meal (or snack) around 30-60 minutes before your training session is ideal. Of course, probably not ideal 30 minutes before a HIIT session.
Carbohydrates can be classified as ‘high-glycemic index’ and ‘low-glycemic index’ foods, determining how quickly the body will digest the foods and convert to energy and how long that energy is going to last for. Low-Gi is long-lasting energy and great for pre-workout meals. High-Gi is short lasting and great to quickly replenish depleted energy levels are training.
It is preferable to opt for low GI carbohydrates pre-workout, like oats, sweet potato, rice cakes, or some fruit. Highly fatty meals should be avoided pre-workout to avoid discomfort during exercise. Rather, opt for a meal with fiber as this will help with absorption and digestion of nutrients.
Four easy pre-workout snacks (consumed 30-60mins before exercise):
1. Just a banana
2. Rice cakes with tuna
3. Carrot sticks and hummus
4. A chicken and pumpkin wrap
Failing to consume the right pre-workout snack can greatly reduce your energy levels and overall performance in the gym and sport.
Post Workout carbohydrates and protein
When we talk about post-workout nutrition, we are highlighting the one-hour window after you train – “the window of opportunity”. So it’s best to be prepared, not having to worry about rushing home and preparing a whole feast.
On the topic of protein, your muscles are made from proteins, so it will repair the micro-tears that occur as a result of training, and the result increases your muscle mass and strength (don’t worry ladies, it takes a long time to build muscle mass for females). So it’s important to consume nutrient-rich foods that are high in protein post-workout for optimum recovery and progress.
Post workout the body’s carbohydrate stores will also be depleted so it is important to incorporate carbohydrates into your post workout meal and this is the time where you can sneak in some High-GI foods as the body needs simple sugars to replenish it’s glucose levels instead of the slow process of converting complex carbohydrates into glucose.
Four Post Workout snack ideas (consumed within 30-60min post exercise):
1. Jelly beans anyone? You know those glucose ones that are delicious. If you ever crave them, this is the time you can totally get away with a small handful. Even better, compliment it with a protein shake to ensure the protein travels directly to those ‘just trained’ muscles.
2. Protein powder blended with frozen banana, spinach, and unsweetened almond milk.
3. Don’t have much time? Just grab 2 boiled eggs on the run for a quick protein hit alongside a piece of fruit.
4. Chicken breast with white potato mash and greens – great for the PM trainers if you’ve got the time!
Optimum nutrition post workout is the key to becoming fitter, faster and stronger through effective recovery while reducing the risk of injury and progress towards your goals.