The Right (And The Wrong) Foods To Eat Before, During & After A Workout
There’s an abundance of information out there telling us what we should be eating before we workout, and whilst some of it is correct a lot of it is simply misinformed.
So what should you be eating before exercise? Let’s start with an important one, protein.
Protein is one of the most important resources for your body, not only for muscle gain goals but weight loss too. It’s important that you have a regular supply of protein in order to successfully build muscle, on average it’s suggested that if you’re working on specifically muscle gain you should aim to be consuming 30 grams of protein with each meal. Before you work out, eat foods that contain quality proteins such as fish, eggs whites, chicken and grass fed beef.
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Another food to consider eating before an intense workout is a banana. Hailed as ‘nature’s power bar’ the banana is packed with potassium which aids in keeping muscle function in top shape. Due to the body’s inability to hold potassium for very long you should eat them regularly to maintain your nutrient levels.
Here’s one that you might not know, oats! They’re packed with fibre which enables a steady release of carbohydrates into your system. This means more energy! So next time you’re considering a pre-workout meal, why not try some oatmeal?
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Fancy something quick and light? Chickpeas are a pretty good snack of choice for pre-workout, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for extra flavor et voila. No cooking required. Just one quarter of a cup of chickpeas contains up to 30 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein and 9 grams of fibre! A solid combination of carbohydrates and protein is ideal, and will make for an enhanced work out session.
So now, here are a few foods to AVOID before you work out:
Dairy is one to try and steer clear of up to two hours before a work out. Many athletes avoid dairy before exercise as it can cause lethargy, it’s also quite acidic which could affect your stomach. It can sit heavy and result in you feeling sluggish and tired.
You also want to steer clear of any particularly spicy foods! Although these can give your metabolism a helping hand, I wouldn’t advise any spicy fajitas or tostadas (you get the point) right before a workout as they can actually cause heartburn which can be extremely uncomfortable under any circumstances. If weight loss is your goal then research some healthy spicy meals to eat later on.
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Certain protein bars should also be avoided, often you’ll find they’re full of sugars and hold a very little proportion of carbohydrates. They won’t do any favours for your energy or provide the fuel you need to power through a great workout.
Stay away from the soda! The high level of sugar and not to mention bubbles in carbonated drinks do not work well for a workout! It can lead to a bloated and gassy stomach, plus the high levels of sugar could give you a sharp rush, followed by a pretty sharp comedown.
So we’ve established what to eat and what not to eat, so what about timing? It’s suggested that you should try and eat two to three hours before you eat. This way you have time to enable your food to be digested and absorbed. If you’re limited to time then I would recommend a piece of fruit or small bowl of oat cereal. These will be digested quickly and fuel you with the energy that you need.
If you’re planning on an extensive workout session then you’ll need some fuel to keep you going during your workout.
If your main goal is muscle gain then its protein, protein and more protein! Whilst your body is working out, whether it be cardio or weightlifting, you use essential amino acids, it’s important that these stores get replenished as soon as possible! A lot of people turn to protein drinks, but this shouldn’t be your only consumption, if you’re trying to build muscle then you also need to add carbohydrates into the mix. Try and find a protein bar that is also high in carbohydrates, with minimal sugar as possible.
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It’s an obvious one but during your workout, drinking plenty of liquid is absolutely essential. Water is our body’s natural cooling system, without it you’ll be dehydrated before you know it which won’t do any favours for your energy levels. Ensure you drink plenty of water before and during exercise, whatever your goal may be.
So what about after your workout? If your goal is muscle gain then yep, you guessed it, protein again! It’s an essential ingredient to help your muscles not only recover but grow. A few post-workout meal ideas that are more interesting than chicken and rice include protein pancakes, scrambled eggs and wholemeal toast or even a tasty wholemeal sandwich wrap loaded with protein and salad. Similarly if you’re trying to lose weight these meals will suit your diet too, but why not add a small fruit salad into the mix? Fruit contains essential carbohydrates but also provide essential vitamins too.
Tilly is a health enthusiast currently working for training and wellness centre The DVCC.