Ask any bodybuilder or serious athlete what they consider the most important aspect of their training and they will likely tell you that it has to do with proper nutrition. If you really want to get the best results from all those intense training sessions, here’s what you should be eating and drinking before, during and after your workouts.
During aerobic exercise, such as swimming, jogging and biking — which all stress endurance over long periods of time — your body initially uses carbohydrates as fuel. As the duration increases, your body begins to burn fat.
During anaerobic exercise, or short-term, high-intensity activities such as weighlifting or intensive sit-up and pushup workouts, carbohydrates in the form of glycogen (a complex sugar) are the primary fuel source for your muscles. Such repetitive, vigorous activity can use up most of the carbs stored in your muscles.
Now that you know what’s going on when you’re working out, here’s what you should eat and drink to make all that sweating even more worthwhile.
Whether you’re engaging in aerobic or anaerobic activity, foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain pasta, rice, and bread, and fruits and vegetables, are the best sources of energy. Have a small meal an hour beforehand
About 30 to 60 minutes before your workout, eat a small, easily digested meal composed of complex carbs. You will train longer and harder and you won’t experience low blood sugar jitters and dizziness.
Drop that candy
Also, avoid simple sugars, such as candy, up to 60 minutes before working out because they can lead to low blood sugar levels during exercise.
Hydrate your body
Most people don’t drink enough water when they exercise. Water is an essential nutrient that is critical for optimal physical performance, resistance to injury, and maintenance of normal body temperature.
Drink large quantities of water (20 ounces) one or two hours before exercising to hyperhydrate your body and allow enough time for adequate hydration and urination.
Drink three to six ounces of water every 15 to 30 minutes during exercise.
Get an extra boost
During prolonged periods of intense exercise (1½ hours or more at an intensity of over 50% of heart rate reserve), sports drinks can also be useful.
Most sports drinks are composed of simple carbohydrates (sugars) and electrolytes. Drinks containing up to 10% carbohydrates enter the bloodstream quickly enough to deliver glucose to active muscles, which can help to improve endurance. However, drinks that exceed 10% carbohydrates, such as fruit juices and sodas, can cause cramps, nausea and diarrhea. Avoid these during exercise.
Right after — more carbs
Immediately after your workout, have a small snack that is rich in carbs in order to restore your muscle-glycogen levels.
An hour later — protein
About 60 minutes after training, have a hearty meal that includes lean protein, such as chicken or tuna, in order to repair your damaged muscle tissues. To restore those glycogen levels, your meal should also include some complex carbs.
Don’t forget to drink more water after your workout to rehydrate your body. Monitor your pre- and post-exercise body weight and drink two cups of water for every pound of weight lost.
Eat the right amount of protein
Whether you’re a bodybuilder or a moderate exerciser protein is indispensable for muscle repair and growth. It is simply a matter of knowing the protein requirements for your particular level of activity.
For instance, a person who is only moderately active, 20% of their diet should come from protein, with another 20% coming from fat, and the remaining 60% coming from carbs. Whereas a bodybuilder should consume a diet that is made up of 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbs.
Be good to your body…
Obviously, it can be really difficult to find the motivation to work out on a regular basis. But once you’ve gotten past that point and have integrated it into your daily life, you should make that extra effort to eat properly and get the most out of your training.
Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll find that your performance, energy level and results will vastly improve.