"Do I have to eat before I workout?" "Is it always beneficial to have a protein shake after I lift weights?" "How long after I workout should I eat?" These questions are often on the minds of our clients and those striving to live an active lifestyle. Yes, nutrition should live in harmony with activity, but it doesn’t have to be so complicated. (Keep it simple!) A properly nourished body performs well during tough workouts and doesn’t have to suffer with soreness and fatigue the next day (or two or three days...). Navigating the latest trends in food and fitness can be quite confusing as there are many mixed messages. To stay consistent with our “keep it simple” motto here at HSL, let’s bring the focus back to real food and listening to your body!
Nutrients that Support Fitness:Like our approach to general nutrition, we recommend the combination of PFC for pre and post workout nutrition, if you can tolerate it. Here’s why: P: Protein has been given most of the spotlight in the world of sports nutrition. It is essential for muscle repair and muscle building. Most active adults need 1.2-2 gm/kg of body weight—elite athletes are on the upper end of the range, and moderately active adults on the lower end. As an example, a competitive athlete may receive the most benefit from four eggs in the morning while someone who is walking their dog each day may only need two eggs. F: Fat is critical for keeping inflammation down which is increased after a strenuous workout, and it can prevent you from "hitting a wall." Fat lubricates your joints, keeps your immune system strong, and helps regulate blood sugar to give you long, sustained energy (hence the hitting the wall benefit!). Fat is typically the preferred source of fuel at lower intensity exercises like long distance walking, jogging, and biking, but is also beneficial for higher intensity exercise (Cassie fueled her marathons on PFC with lots of fat!). C: Carbohydrate is the energy source used first during high intensity exercise. It can help keep you energized and focused during your workouts and prevent energy crashes. Ever had a headache during a long run? Typically that’s how low blood sugar manifests, either when you haven’t had an adequate amount of carbs, or from not balancing your carbs with protein and fat. Filling up your “glycogen stores” immediately after a workout is often a hot topic in the sports nutrition circuit, but the reality is, if you’re fueling your body with balanced PFC meals and snacks consistently you won't need to stress about this, since you'll already be adequately fueling your body with what it needs. As always, listen to your body. It's nearly impossible to give a general amount for carbohydrate recommendations because there are so many variables. We have clients who perform way better when they eat way more fat and protein than carbs, while some have their best workouts when they eat more carbs (and usually more fat and protein too). Most of our clients notice improved performance when they get their carbs from real food sources, and we have a few who might feel better when they still include bread (this still stumps us!). In a coaching appointment we can best determine what your body really needs since everyone is unique.
Pre-Workout Nutrition:The goal of a pre-workout snack or meal is to improve performance. Depending on the timing of your workout, you may find it beneficial to add a small snack before you begin if the prior meal doesn’t carry you through. Snacks should include quality protein (hard boiled egg, beef stick, turkey slices), some healthy fat (avocado, nuts, seeds, etc.) and an easily digestible carbohydrate (fruit is a great option!). Most people need at least 15 minutes of digestion time prior to starting exercise and it's also important to hydrate with at least a cup of water beforehand. Be careful of consuming too much fat prior to a workout since fat takes the longest amount of time to digest. Pay attention to how your gut feels during the workout and if you get a stomachache of any sort, then you may need to reduce the amount of fat you consume next time. This is a good experiment to do because we find that a lot of our clients are able to tolerate a good amount of healthy fat and that it assists them in performing more optimally. That said, it's smart to test this out on a day other than competition or race day, just in case! If it doesn't help you perform better, then it's not something we recommend. Always listen to your body. If you are someone who works out first thing in the morning, and you feel energized and able to make it through the workout successfully, this may be the one time you can skip a pre-workout meal. Remember; always go back to listening to your body and what works for you. Pay attention to your energy level, brain fog, and/or muscle cramping during the workout to assess if you need more protein, fat or carbohydrate prior to exercising. Muscle cramping can also be related to water, electrolyte imbalance and magnesium deficiency (which is why we call Magnesium "The Miracle Mineral." Goodbye cramps!). No need to run and grab a sports drink or NSAID (non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-drug)—instead start by adding electrolyte rich foods to your meals and snacks and supplement with our recommendations below. Consider these examples:
- Sweet potatoes and coconuts = potassium
- Spinach and sunflower seeds = magnesium
- Beef and olives = sodium