Running out of steam halfway into a training session ruins your whole workout. If you want to have better results from working up a sweat at the gym, you need to eat the right foods. It’s not just what you eat, though, but also when you eat it that will have you pushing on for longer. Follow this guide to fuel up the correct way before and after a workout session.
Dig into a Carb-Protein Blend
Although you always hear of the importance of protein when you want to build and repair muscles, pairing protein with carbs is a must. It will give your body the energy it needs to complete your workout session. You want a mix of carbs: simple carbs that will burn quickly for a boost of energy and complex carbs that take longer to be released so that your energy can be sustained. Examples of adequate snacks are a whole-wheat bagel with jam or a protein shake with a banana.
Reach for coffee
Although you don’t want to have too much of it, one cup of coffee can improve your workout. It’s great to drink before you hit the gym because it will boost your energy. It also decreases muscle soreness after your session. However, coffee should never be a substitute for energy-filled meals before you hit the ground running as it won’t fill and fuel you up properly on its own.
Wind up your fitness clock
Getting the right fuel for your workout is one thing, but you need to time your eating well so that your fuel works for you. It’s a bit like filling up your car with gas. You want to use the fuel instead of letting it go to waste because the car is running on idle. Try to eat within four hours of your workout, and then have a snack in the hour before you start. Base how much you should eat on how long your exercise session is going to last. If it’s longer than an hour, add in a bit more food to keep you going. Beans and lentils are great to help you achieve the slow-burn energy you need to fuel a longer workout, and they are high in complex carbs as well as protein.
Have a mid-session snack
Although it might seem strange to eat while you exercise, this is beneficial if you have a long and/or strenuous workout. A quick bite, in the form of carbs such as raisins or a banana, will help to fill your body with energy while helping you burn more calories. Protein consumption during exercise is a good thing as its amino acids are used during your session and need to be rebuilt, while carbs help to keep the body’s cortisol hormones low - when these are too high they break down muscle mass instead of helping to build it.
Replenish your body
When your time at the gym has come to an end, don’t forget to top up on food again. Although you might think you don’t need the energy, the goal of eating after a workout is to replenish your body’s nutrients and reserves. You need to eat within an hour after exercise so that your body will use the food to recover and also store away energy. If you don’t eat within this window, your body will risk losing energy during your next workout - even if it’s the next day. It’s time to eat protein along with some carbs again, such as a salad with chickpeas and olive oil, a peanut butter sandwich, or a cup of quinoa with berries. Berries are also filled with antioxidants such as Vitamin C that have many other health and skin benefits, too.
Eating after a workout also helps you continue with your day without experiencing energy slumps. And remember: if you feel good and energetic after your workout, instead of tired and drained, you’ll look forward to tomorrow’s workout much more.
Eating the right foods before, during and after a workout will help you maximize your gym sessions so you can get the toned and healthy body you’ve always wanted.
About the author
Gwen Lewis is a writer and makeup artist based in Southern California. Because of her passion for beauty and health, she hopes to help others not just look great but feel great, whether through makeup or her writing. In her free time, she enjoy shopping and pick-up soccer games with her friends.