So you’re showing up and doing the work at the gym—kudos to you. You’ve got strength training down, you’re practicing your zen in yoga, or you’re taking it up to the next level in CrossFit.
Number one, that’s awesome. Number two, there’s more.
Fitness isn’t just about logging hours at the gym. If you’re going to create massive results and make progress towards your goals, you need to take your diet as seriously as your workout time.
FUEL FOR YOUR WORKOUT
Let’s start with the first step: fueling for your workouts. Eating the proper combination of nutrients before your workout will improve your performance, give you an energy boost, and help protect you from exhaustion and injury.
Without the proper fuel, you might be damaging your metabolism, making yourself vulnerable to fatigue, and putting your muscles at risk.
So, let’s get practical. Before every workout, you need to eat three different macronutrients (and, don’t worry—it’s not as complicated as it sounds).
MACRONUTRIENT #1: CARBS
Why are carbs important? Your muscles use carbohydrates for fuel. Eating some form of healthy carbohydrates before a workout will help you maintain your intensity and energy while exercising.
You should consume a simple source of carbohydrates between 45 minutes to two hours before your next workout.
MACRONUTRIENT #2: PROTEIN
You’re probably used to downing a protein shake before or after a workout...but do you know how it’s helping your body? Here’s the short version: protein improves your muscle performance and helps your muscles recover quickly after an intense exercise session.
You should be eating some form of protein between 45 minutes to two hours before your next workout.
MACRONUTRIENT #3: FAT
Carbs might get you through the first half of your high-intensity workout, but a healthy fat source will help you maintain your energy throughout an hour long sweat sesh. Basically, fueling your body with fat increases your endurance.
One important note: it takes a little while for your body to break down and metabolize fat, so make sure that you’re eating your pre-workout mini-meal at least two hours beforehand. Don't have enough time? Just skip the fat and refuel afterwards.
If you’re not sure how to get these macro-nutrients into your body before your workout (without spending hours in the kitchen), here are a few simple ideas:
- Fruit Smoothie (milk, protein powder, berries, and banana)
- Peanut Butter Toast (whole wheat bread and all-natural peanut butter)
- Scrambled Eggs + Fruit
- Oatmeal topped with Nut Butter and Bananas
If your workout is starting in just a few minutes, stick with something super light and simple, like fat-free Greek yogurt or a sliced banana and a spoonful of peanut butter.
Alright, so you’ve fueled for success and completed a killer workout. What’s next?
First of all, focus on rehydrating with good ol’ H2O. You’ve sweated out a lot of water while exercising, so it’s important to hydrate right away.
Second, if you intentionally prepared for your workout with a macro-nutrient-based snack or meal, you may not need to eat a huge meal, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. But it's still important to make sure your body receives the essential nutrition it needs to rebuild your muscles and regain energy.
Keep your refuel meal simple by focusing on getting protein - in the form of a protein shake, nuts, lean meat, or eggs - within thirty minutes of your workout.
Then, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel hungry, shaky, or fatigued, refuel with a larger snack or meal that includes carbohydrates (for immediate energy) and fats (for long-term energy).
Everyone’s body is different, and your needs will depend on your unique metabolism, the intensity of your workout, and the type of exercise you did. So, pay attention to how you feel and fuel accordingly.
Okay, so now that you know what to eat before and after your workouts, it’s time to put it into practice! Go make yourself a peanut butter sandwich, and get ready maximize your energy and results!