Well, this post is directly in line with the reason I have not written for awhile. I have been “away” from this blog b/c I am preparing for my Fitness Nutrition Specialist Exam as well as teaching many more classes than usual. I have been having a great time teaching and learning, but have really missed blogging, so I plan to be more consistent now!
Throughout my nutrition study, it has become more evident to me than ever what an important role good nutrition has in our workouts and overall physical health. This may seem obvious in a way, but the way our bodies respond to exercise is GREATLY affected by how we fuel it. My life mantra of everything in moderation has never been stronger especially when it comes to nutrition and fitness. We need the good fats, the complex carbs and the proteins!
I have been asked many times what people should eat before and after a workout. I am amazed how many people eat nothing several hours before a workout or wait a long time to refuel after. The timing of your meals is almost as important as what you eat.
Before a workout – say 1-2 hrs before- get your carbs – mostly complex. Carbs are stored in our muscles as glycogen and are necessary for energy and endurance. You use 40-50% glycogen toward the first half of your workout. I know carbs get a bad reputation, but they are necessary to provide energy to get you through a cardio and/pr strength training workout. Also, make sure you replenish that glycogen you lost within an hour or two after you exercise otherwise, your recovery will take significantly longer.
Since recovery and rest is when our bodies gain strength and rebuild, protein is a must – especially post workout. Protein repairs those damaged muscle tissues and allows them to get stronger. Again within an hour or two after a workout get some protein with those complex carbs. ( I will have some pre and post workout meal ideas at the end of this article.)
Good nutrition must include good hydration. Water is a must pre, post and during a workout. Water helps keep your heart rate steady and your body temperature stable. Also, unless you are exercising intensely for over an hour- you really don’t need those sports drinks that are full of simple sugars and added calories.
If you are eating a balanced diet without excessive restrictions, you will most likely get most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs especially if you take a multi-vitamin everyday. Deficiencies can lead to low energy, abnormal muscle contractions, low iron, low electrolyte levels, and overall poor health and reduced performance when exercising.
A poor immune system is a common result of a bad diet (specifically chronic low blood sugar) which comes from extreme carb reduction. Eating a wide variety of lean meats, veggies, fruits and whole grains will keep these deficiencies away. Even a lack of salt can cause muscle cramps. So again, everything in moderation!
One of the things I have learned from my study that really hit home, was the importance of good fat in our diet. Fortunately we hear about the benefits a lot these days of “good fats”, because a severely fat restricted diet is a great way to mess up your metabolism and your overall health. Not only are fats good for our hair, nails and skin, but they are very important for the functioning of our bodies all the way down to the cellular level. Also, a lot of these low or no fat food are loaded with sugar and provide little nutrient value. So yes again…. good fats in moderation!
Variety in our food choices is good for our bodies as well as our minds, so we don’t get bored. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Here are a few of my simple pre and post workout meals that have helped me maintain my weight while building muscle.
1. Whole grain cereal with fruit – grape nuts, and bran flakes
2. Oatmeal with berries, walnuts, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey – watch out for pre packaged oatmeal that has a lot of added sugar
3. Cliff bar- LOVE them! The new Trail mix flavor is my favorite. Sometimes I eat 1/2 a bar depending on how long or intense my workout will be
1. Greek yogurt (lots of protein!) with fruit, almonds and honey
2. One scoop of whey protein with water. I buy Six Star. It is reasonably priced and has good ingredients. It is available at most major stores.
3. Salad with fish or chicken or hard boiled eggs. I love to mix spinach, salmon, walnuts, and a little bleu cheese .
4. Lean meats with grilled veggies in a stir fry with brown rice. Great way to get those complex carbs along with your protein!