Health and fitness fiends are more concerned than ever with maximizing their workout efforts and getting the fastest results. Effective workouts require complete and quality nutrition, and these simple guidelines will help make the right choices to refuel the body. The type, quantity and quantity of food and fluid taken by people who exercise intensely is very important. They have to deal with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, supplements and organic substances such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
There are various goals throughout quality nutrition such as body composition and speed recovery.
Nutrition Before Workout
Building strong and lean muscle requires a supply of protein for tissue repair and augmentation. The more intense your efforts, the more protein you’ll need to get.
Carbohydrates should constitute around 75% of a before-workout meal, and the protein should comprise around 25%. Proteins must be broken down into amino acids first, in order to be used by muscles in repairing and building tissue. 1 – 2 hours prior to strength training consume protein in order to have an proper reserve for the upcoming workout session.
The amount of protein needed is based on four criteria: body weight, intensity level of workout, length of exercise session and gender.
Low Glycemic Index (GI) carbohydrates release sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and tend to contain more essential nutrients like fiber. They are generally optimal to consume within 30 to 60 minutes before either a strength training or a cardio workout. Examples include whole foods like: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans.
High Glycemic Index (GI) carbs release sugar very quickly, providing a quick but brief energy boost/burst. However, they are best to eat before long, high intensity cardio workouts, not for strength training (which usually last one hour). Examples of high GI carbohydrates include: white bread, white rice, packaged snacks.
Your pre-workout meal should include low glycemic index carbs to provide you with the energy you’ll need, and protein-rich aliments to store.
- Egg white omelette with spinach, whole grain toast and skim or soy milk;
- Smoothie of protein powder, soy or skim milk, high GI fruits (mango, peach or pineapple) and flax seeds;
- Greek yogurt with banana, walnuts, apples and honey;
Quality pre-workout nutrition for a cardio session implies more carbs than protein. Carbs give you the energy and power throughout an intense workout. They should constitute somewhere between 75% – 100% of a before-workout meal. Carbs are metabolized into glucose (energy) very quickly.
Your before workout meal should be consumed between 30 – 60 minutes prior to arriving at the gym. Add protein and fiber to deliver a steadier supply of energy during the workout and thus preventing fatigue that results from consuming only carbs.
Eat a small snack to help boost blood sugar levels, especially if your cardio workout is before your first meal or between meals.
- Whole, mixed grains hot cereal with raisins and walnuts, skim milk and honey;
- Scrambled egg whites in a whole grain pita with a sliced apple;
- Greek yogurt parfait with layers of banana, peaches and granola;
- Fruit smoothie made with soy milk, ice, banana, strawberries and honey or brown sugar;
General Tip: Recent studies suggest taking in around 10 to 20 grams of high-quality protein within 2 hours after strength workout is usually enough to boost recovery and prevent muscle loss (which usually happens in over-training or exercising without adequate nutrition).
Nutrition After Workout
After a workout, dietary protein is used largely for muscle building, rather than fat storage (like it does when no workout is involved). A protein-based meal within 2 hours of a workout will give your body what it needs to build strong and lean muscle.
Although many people believe consuming a protein drink during a strength-training workout session is even better for muscle development, no significant evidence supports this. Go natural and the results will also be long-lasting!
Protein and carbohydrates are needed after a workout to help repair muscles, replenish the body’s glycogen stores and prevent muscle soreness.
- Half an avocado stuffed with cheese and tomato;
- Spinach salad with a sliced chicken breast;
- Whole foods are the best choice because they offer complete nutrition. They provide many micro-nutrients and essential fiber and help keep you feeling satiated. Best whole food choices are: eggs (they contain complete, high quality protein and provide nearly every essential vitamin and mineral), fish, chicken breast, turkey, low-fat milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt.
One of the best protein-carb combos is chocolate milk. It provides an optimal balance of carbs and protein and is recommended for both strength and cardio training. Chose low-fat to avoid excess fat and sugar consumption. Consume 8 ounces to obtain necessary nutrients after a workout.
After a cardio workout, hydration is the main goal. A big amount of water is lost through perspiration in cardio sessions. Natural water is the best source of hydration of the average exerciser. It’s true that sports drinks replenish lost electrolytes, but contain large amounts of sugar and calories. Only top athletes may need the extra electrolytes that make sports drinks worth the sugar and calories. Generally, the average workout doesn’t demand these extra calories in sports drinks. Coconut water is a great alternative to sports drinks, offering lots of potassium and magnesium, which restores your electrolytes, like energy drinks do, but in a much healthier manner. Also, after a tough cardio session, your energy resources may need replenishing with a carb-rich snack or meal.
For cardio, the key is to replace water, carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during the workout. Examples:
- Banana sliced lengthwise and spread with peanut or almond butter;
- Mango smoothie with mango chunks, vanilla yogurt, ice, and honey;
- Sliced apple with a handful of walnuts;
- Whole grains, fruits, and veggies are the best sources of carbs for a workout. Again, whole foods are best, but smoothies and shakes are a good quick fix.
Recovery Time is Critical
Recovery/rest time is very important and should be viewed as a window of opportunity. Approximately 30 minutes after cardio, the body is optimized to replenish its energy stores – muscle and liver glycogen. For muscle building training, the rest period is extended up to two hours post-workout. Muscle protein synthesis occurs, setting off muscle tissue recovery and repair, replacing fluids, and helping the body adapt to the stresses of the workout.