I get a lot of questions from my clients and friends about pre, post and even intra-workout nutrition. Here are my top 5 tips for the content and timing of your workout nutrition!
1.) EAT CARBS BEFORE YOU WORK OUT!
Unless you just plan to go on a gentle jog around the neighborhood, carbs are an essential part of weight training or intense training (think 75% effort +). During weight training and high intensity training (*cough* CrossFit *cough* weightlifting), your body’s need for glycogen (energy made from carbohydrate) increases dramatically. If you don’t eat carbohydrates before you work out hard, you can experience poor performance, loss of focus, muscle failure, light headedness, blurred vision, and loss of endurance. Reach for carbohydrates like oatmeal, sweet potato, fruit, and whole grain bread. This doesn’t mean plow through platefuls right before going to the gym though – aim for a reasonable portion, about the size of your fist for ladies and two fists for gents.
2.) EAT CARBS AFTER YOU WORK OUT!
You don’t need to slam chocolate milk as you lay on the floor in a pool of your own sweat post-training. You DO however, need to consume a meal within 45-90 minutes of your workout ending. This meal should have a reasonable amount of protein (1 palm-full for ladies, 2 palm-fulls for gents), carbohydrate (1 fist for ladies, 2 for gents) and fat (1 thumb for ladies, 2 thumbs for men). This post-workout meal will insure your body can do the following: recover from that training session (lower cortisol, the stress hormone which causes muscle wasting and body fat accumulation, and restore glycogen, the body’s fuel), build muscle (protein is the building block) and raise blood sugar levels so you can go about your day without feeling like you’re about to black out.
3.) KEEP IT WHOLE!
Don’t use your workout as an excuse to chow down on donuts, gummies, skittles, high sugar cereals or sodas. Though fast digesting carbohydrates can be good for elite athletes during a 100m sprint at the Olympics, for most of the population, whole foods (whole grains, fruit, potatoes, rice) are better. You get less chemicals and unknown substances, more slow-digesting carbohydrates that give a steady stream of energy, and less of a post-workout crash.
Water regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. Try putting electrolytes in your water for added benefit (vital for hydration, blood pH and proper nerve and muscle function). Drink a minimum of 18-25oz of water during the 3-4 hours leading up to your workout, drink water during your workout as you can tolerate it, and drink a minimum of 10oz of water after you finish your workout.
5.) CALM YOUR CNS WITH ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS!
Taurine, Glycine and Magnesium will all help lower stress and cortisol post exercise (that mean hormone that wants to undo all your hard work), calm your Central Nervous System (CNS), help get rid of inflammation, and improve blood flow to muscles. You can get them all in powdered or capsule (or even some in liquid form) online or in your local health food or supplement store.