Fueling Your Workout

Do you ever find yourself lacking energy during your workout? You walk into the gym pumped up for a full-body workout or excited for a much needed leg-focused workout. However, you’re suddenly depleted of energy before finishing your 10-minute cardio warm-up. The best solution to prevent this energy depletion from happening lies in-you guessed it-your food! Having an extra cup of coffee or a pre-workout supplement will do nothing if you’re not properly supplied with the proper nutrition before as well as AFTER a workout. For a better idea of what to eat before and after, pay attention to the following tips.

Pre-Workout Meal:

We’ve all heard our moms tell us not to eat within one hour of swimming to avoid stomach cramps. Although we’ve grown to realize that’s not entirely true, one to three hours prior to exercise is the best time to consume a small meal to avoid discomfort as well utilize the nutrition content of the meal itself. The size of the meal and type of meal consumed before exercise depends on the intensity of the exercise, the type of exercise, and your body composition. Assuming that an adult of 150-250lbs is performing 1 hour of exercise involving both cardio and weight training, a meal low in sugar of 150-300 calories is most appropriate to sustain the training session. Because the pre-workout meal should consist of carbs for quick energy, protein for muscle growth, and healthy fats and fiber to remain comfortably full, examples of optimal pre-workout meals include an apple with peanut butter, an ounce of raw almonds and half a cup of baby carrots, or a banana with almond butter.

Post-Workout Meal:

After a strenuous bout of lifting weights, your muscles are shredded apart at multiple tiny rips and tears. To repair and allow them to grow, eating a meal with adequate protein within 30-45 minutes after working out will replenish the tissue. A whey or vegan protein shake, which you can find at the front desk of your local gym, is the most ideal option after strenuous exercise. Protein shakes are low in sugar and saturated fats, are supplemented with vitamins, contain about 30 grams of protein per serving, and are easily digestible, allowing the nutrients to rapidly reach the muscles in need. If sucking down a protein shake doesn’t quite sound like your cup of tea (pun intended), there are plenty of whole food meals that deliver the same nutritional value. Egg whites, lean meats, and fish are all proteins that are virtually sugar free and low in saturated fats which will replenish tired muscle tissue.

Prefer a hardcore cardio session? Whether you’re running, hiking, skiing, or crushing calories on the elliptical machine, you still need to refuel. Cardiovascular-based exercises burn through a stored fat in your body called glycogen. Once the easily accessible sources of glycogen are gone at the end of the workout, you’ll start to feel a little fatigued and hungry. It’s this exhausted ravenous hunger that often leads to “runner’s weight”, a phenomenon in which athletes such as distance runners and cyclists eat more than what they’ve actually used during exercise and gain weight during training seasons. To guarantee you’re eating enough to recharge your body, have a meal pre-portioned and ready to eat right after the workout. Unlike the ultra-high-protein meals used to restore your body after intense weight lifting, the meals consumed after endurance exercise will usually have an equal distribution of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, similar to a pre-workout meal. However, the longer the duration of exercise, the greater the need for high carb meals. Fruit and yogurt or sprouted grain toast are excellent choices.

Stay Hydrated

If you’re following nutrition guidelines, are well rested, but still dragging along, dehydration might be a cause. It may seem like a no-brainer to drink water throughout an exercise session, but how much water should you drink? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should drink roughly 2-3 cups of water 2-3 hours before a workout, drink 0.5-1.0 cups of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercise during the workout, and drink 2-3 cups of water after the workout for every pound of weight lost during exercise. All together, this should add up to a minimum of one liter of water.

For more information about staying energized during a workout or creating a workout program, stop in to your local gym speak to an exercise physiologist. Stay happy and healthy!

Jenkins, David J., et al (1981). Glycemic index of foods: a physiological basis for carbohydrate exchange. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 34(3), 362-366. Little, Jonathan P., et al (2010). Effect of Low-and High-Glycemic-Index Meals on Metabolism and Performance During High-Intensity, Intermittent Exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, (20), 447-456.