Let’s be honest, it can be HARD to make time for working out. But the benefits to physical activity are endless and the importance of fitting it in for our mental and physical health are paramount. When you carne out that time, you want to know you are getting the biggest benefit possible. Depending on when your workout is, and what type of workout you are doing, your nutrition surrounding it can really make a difference in your results.
Here are a few important tips:
Pre-workout snacks or meals (consumed about 1-2 hours prior to workout) should incorporate a long activing carbohydrate with a source of protein. Ideally they are low in fat and free of foods that cause gas. For example, avoid high bran cereals and certain fresh veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts if you are heading for a run or to a spin class in the upcoming few hours.
Good choices for pre-workout meal are:
• Steel cut oats with Greek yogurt and berries
• Whole grain wrap with almond butter and banana
• Whole grain pita with low fat Swiss, spinach, tomato, and cucumber
• Roasted sweet potato with chicken
Good choices for a pre-workout snack are:
• Piece of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter
• Homemade, low sugar granola with Greek yogurt.
During your workout, your body does not need additional nutrition as long as the aerobic part of your workout is less than 60 minutes. If you will have your heart rate up in the aerobic stage for longer than 60 minutes, then there are other consideration which I will discuss at another time.
Post workout (within 15 minutes of finishing), your body needs quick acting carbohydrates to feed the brain and central nervous system and also replenish your glycogen stores. It also needs protein to repair and support the building of muscle tissue. If you consume too much protein with inadequate carbohydrates, your body will use the back bone of protein to service its carbohydrate needs, instead of using protein for muscle building and repair. Therefore, you need to consume more carbohydrates than protein post-workout for the most efficient process. This is not a time to make your body work harder to get what it needs. Do what is recommended you ask??? Well, the answer is one that often raises eyebrows and questions… 1 cup of chocolate milk (or chocolate soy milk). Okay, so the response I get from almost everyone (who isn’t an RD) when I say this is….BUT IT HAS SO MUCH SUGAR!!!!!! Yes, it does have simple sugar, and that is the point! Post workout is one of the few times that we actually want to consume a quick acting sugar. Your body needs to know that you are there to nourish it. The key part here is not just consuming the chocolate milk, but also the timing. Research has shown us time and time again that consuming 1 cup of chocolate milk within 15 minutes of the end of your workout is best and contributes to the best results such as increased muscle mass, reduced muscle wasting, reduced overeating later in the day/evening, and overall a better metabolism. Recommendations from research would go on to say that we should consume another healthy meal or snack again within 60 minutes of consuming the chocolate milk.
Okay, so if you are wondering if there is another alternative that you could have instead…I am always asked for alternatives…then I will tell you this. The number goals are to have a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Chocolate milk has 30 grams of quick acting carbs and 8-9 grams of complete protein. Soy chocolate milk has the same. I have been asked if Greek yogurt and berries is okay instead. My answer is that it is better than nothing at all; however, this combination has more fibre making it slower to digest. If you are choosing a protein shake or supplement, then the main thing is to determine how you can create these ratios. Perhaps use less protein powder to ensure that your ratios are 3:1 for carbs:protein.
I have worked with people from Learn to Run clinics to marathon runners, high school level athletes all the way to athletes in the NHL and CFL. At every level, the truth remains that if we feed our bodies adequately before and after workouts, we will optimize our outcomes. If this is different than what you are doing now, the question is…are you willing to give it a try? Are you interested in better results? Whether you are new to working out or you have been consistently active for years, I hope that this gives you a way to take your workout results to the next level!