Healthy Foods: What to Eat For Optimal Workouts

Healthy Foods: What to Eat For Optimal Workouts

African woman eating healthy salad

By Adetoun Adeyemo   |   Friday, 22 Sep 01 11:25 AM
Are you running on empty tummy every time you hit the gym? The food you eat before and after your workouts can either minimize or maximize your athletic performance. Whether you prefer a brisk morning walk or an empowering Pilates class, it is important to give your body the nutrients it needs. Make sure to fuel your tank to keep your engines running long and strong with the following tips.


Be a Carbohydrate Champion
As the main source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are converted to sugar that is stored in the form of glycogen as future fuel for our muscles. When the time comes to sweat it out, our muscles are able to use this sugar for energy without getting fatigued. If we don’t have a sufficient supply we won’t be able to zoom through our Zumba class! Exhaustion will prevent us from completing our workouts and protein will be used for energy instead. After a strong workout, your body will need more carbohydrates to replenish the glycogen stores and minimize protein loss.

Chomp on these carbs: The best carbohydrates will provide you with adequate fiber, B vitamins and iron for energy metabolism: fruits, cereals, crackers, and breads. See pre-workout menus below!

Pump Up With Protein
Should you pass on the protein? If you seek sleek muscle tone, then become pals with protein. It is essential for promoting tissue growth and repair. After a strength-training session your muscle fibers will require this nutrient to help you in building, repairing and synthesizing new muscle.

Power up with these proteins: Low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry, beans, legumes and eggs.
Forego the Fat

Although fat provides our body with energy, it is slow to digest and takes a long time to convert to usable energy. Large amounts of oxygen are required to turn fat into fuel, so save the ice cream for a later treat!

Forget these fats: Before you slip on those sneakers, make sure to avoid fatty, fried foods that will zap your energy.

Step Away From the Sugar
It is best to refrain from consuming refined sugars that will increase your insulin levels and cause a rapid rise and drop in your blood sugar.

Sugar snafus: Sweet beverages, candy bars, sweet cereals and yogurts, sugar-laced granola and power bars

Put Your Pre- and Post-Workout Eats Into Practice
Timing is everything! First of all, you probably already know that it is best not to exercise on a full stomach to prevent cramping, nausea and an upset stomach. Also, the time and intensity of your workout will often determine what you should eat and drink. A 10-mile run will demand more energy than a casual cycle around your neighborhood.
Two hours before a workout, eat a small meal, such as:
• 1 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal (carb) +  8 oz. glass low-fat milk (protein + carb)+ 2 tbs. dried cranberries (carb)
• 2 scrambled eggs (protein) with spinach and mushrooms+½ whole wheat English muffin(carbs)
•½ cup quinoa (carb and protein) + small mixed green salad
• Whole-grain toast (carb) with 1 tbs. nut butter (protein)
• 1 cup whole-grain pasta (carb) with ½ cup garbanzo beans (protein + carb)
• 3 oz.turkey breast (protein) +lettuce and tomato +2 small whole-grain crackers (carb)

An hour before a workout, snack on:
• small banana, (carb)
• 1 cup lowfat unsweetened yogurt (protein)
• ½ cup fruit and soy or almond milk smoothie (carb and protein)
• ¼ cup trail mix with nuts (protein), seeds (protein) and dried fruit (carb)

An hour after a workout:
Recover from the grind! It is best to eat within one hour after completing your workout in order to optimize muscle recovery. The highest rates of muscle glycogen synthesis occur during the first hour after exercise. Your body’s metabolism is also working at its best right after exercise, so don’t wait too long to feed your belly. Your meal should contain both protein and carbohydrates such as any of the above-mentioned foods. If you don’t have time to eat, a glass of low-fat milk is a good choice with enough protein, carbs, and electrolytes like sodium and calcium

Remember to replace lost fluids by drinking water after you exercise to prevent dehydration. For exercise lasting more than 90 minutes aim to have a quarter to a half cup of water every 15-20 minutes. This will also help you prevent fatigue while you are working out.

Should you eat or fast before a workout? Is carbo-loading a good idea before a vigorous exercise routine? And what should you eat to recover from heavy physical activity?

For many of us, trying to find the right balance of healthy eating and a regular exercise routine is not easy. Figuring out what foods are most nourishing before and after a workout can be even more difficult.

But it’s important to know what types of foods can help fuel your sweat session and the right post-workout meals that help your body refuel.

Here are some expert tips on how best to nourish your body before, during, and after a workout.

Don’t exercise on an empty stomach. It’s important to try and eat something before you work out, regardless of what time of the day it is.

 Eat a fuel-boosting snack, like a banana or rice cake, at least 30 minutes before working out. It will help you have a more intense workout by keeping your body’s energy stores high.

Carbohydrates and a good-quality protein before a workout should do the trick. Some options: Oatmeal and berries, peanut butter and an apple, or yogurt and muesli.

Carbs can help enhance your performance, especially during long cardio exercises, according to researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia.

Nancy Cohen, a professor of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst recommends 1 to 4 grams of carbs per every 2.2 pounds of body weight if you are planning to exercise for longer than an hour. What does that equal? A banana has about 27 grams of total carbohydrates.

“By eating carbohydrate-rich foods that are low in fat and low or moderate in protein, you can make sure you have enough muscle glycogen as fuel for your physical activity. This might include low-fat granola bars, fig bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, banana, yogurt, pasta, or other high-carbohydrate foods,” Cohen said.

One exception: if it’s been only two or three hours since your last full meal, you can skip the snack.

Avoid pre-workout energy powders. Many of them are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can do more harm than good. I recommend JUICE PLUS COMPLETE 

People who have taken pre-workout mixes have reported rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and digestion issues. Some nutritionists recommend a cup of coffee instead.

Drink during your workout. Unless you’re exercising for longer than an hour, there really isn’t a reason to have a snack during your workout. But you should focus on drinking plenty of water during your workout to stay hydrated.

“If it’s something convenient to have on the way to work, that’s fine. Or one scoop in your water isn’t bad. But if you’re getting it on-the-go, make sure you know what’s going in there. There might be too many servings of fruit or multiple scoops of nut butter. You can have it but not having a protein shake is not going to make you lose muscle,” Neglia added.

What about protein bars? Again, it’s important to check the labels to see just what’s in them. Ideally, a bar should be under 200 calories and have only a few grams of sugar. Otherwise, it’s a dessert, not a snack

Complete – A healthy (and fast) food



Published: 01/09/17



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