There are a lot of factors that will affect your workout performance such as inadequate nutrition, inconsistent exercising, insufficient sleep, intense stress, and undesirable weather conditions. While some things are beyond your control like the weather, there are a lot of things within your control such as nutrition. Consuming the right nutrition at the right time can make a tremendous difference in your performance and ability to achieve your fitness goals.
The American College of Sports Medicine says, “Adequate food and fluid should be consumed before, during, and after exercise to help maintain blood glucose concentration during exercise, maximize exercise performance, and improve recovery time. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink enough fluid during and after exercise to balance fluid losses.” Don’t let the word athlete frighten you. Whereas you may not be professionally trained participating in competitive events, we are all athletes in our own right.
Trying to decide what to eat can be most challenging. Until you figure out what works for you and your digestive system, it will be a series of trial-and-error. For some basic tips on food sources to consider, check out the information below.
What to eat before your workout session.
First, think about your car. How far would you get if it’s on empty? Absolutely nowhere! Your body is no different. Your body needs fuel to move. The preferred time period for your pre-workout meal consumption should be about two hours before exercise, and contain about 300-500 calories of healthy carbohydrates. For example, a bowl of cereal or oatmeal with a banana, half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with juice, or an English muffin with an egg and juice. If you exercise first thing in the morning and don’t have time to eat two hours beforehand, a quick 50-100 calorie snack 5-10 minutes prior to exercise will also be effective. For example, a piece of fruit like a banana.
What to eat during your workout session.
For workout sessions less than an hour, food consumption is not necessary. However, you do need to make sure you are hydrated prior to starting and remain hydrated by taking small, regular sips of water during your workout. If your workout activity is along the lines of a long run or a bike ride that is expected to last over an hour, it’s important that you incorporate 50-100 calories every half hour. Your food source should be a quick carbohydrate. In your fitness pouch/hydration belt, pack a small Ziploc bag of energy-sustaining foods like fig newtons, pretzels, an energy bar, or energy gels. If you will be exercising longer than 90 minutes, drink 8-10 fl oz of a sports drink every 15 – 30 minutes.
What to eat after your workout session.
For effective recovery results, and the ability to adequately repair and grow your muscles, it is best to eat within 20 to 60 minutes of your workout session. The best post-workout meal contains a mix of carbohydrates and protein. A quick consumable food item waiting for you in your car could be a peanut butter sandwich. A more elaborate meal could be grilled fish or chicken with brown rice and a vegetable medley, or a protein based smoothie (made with all natural peanut butter and real fruit/vegetables such a banana, strawberries, pineapples, mixed greens, beets, etc.). Don’t forget to drink plenty of water afterward.