Pre and post exercise nutrition is a popular nutrition topic. Exercise is directly affected by how you fuel your body. Finding the right balance can help optimize performance and recovery. Having adequate energy stores in your muscles will give you the ability to have a productive workout. It will also reduce the likelihood for muscle soreness, allowing you to have better workouts each day. Let’s begin talking about the macronutrients and why they are important in “fueling” ones body.
Fitness & Nutrition
CARBOHYDRATES: Your body breaks down carbohydrates and uses them for energy in the form of glucose. Complex carbohydrates are not as processed and contain fiber, so they are digested more slowly and energy levels stay high. The major source of energy used during exercise is carbohydrates in the form of muscle glycogen. The greater your glycogen stores, the longer exercise can be sustained without exhaustion. It is important to keep these stores of glycogen high when you are an avid exerciser and during exercise, so you are able to have optimal performance.
PROTEIN: Protein is broken down into amino acids, which your body utilizes to rebuild muscles and repair tissues. Lean meat, skim milk, eggs, and Greek yogurt are great sources of essential amino acids to recover after weightlifting and workouts.
FAT: In general, fat intake should be around 20-30% of daily calories. Avocados, almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, and even salmon provide good sources of healthy unsaturated fat.
FIBER: Fiber is important to properly digest food that you eat and help maintain a steady blood sugar level. Aim for 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
WATER: Hydration is necessary during workouts because you are losing water and electrolytes through sweat. Dehydration can hinder athletic performance and it can be dangerous to your health. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and try to fill your glass or water bottle up at least 6-8 times a day.
1 hour or less: This should be mainly carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrate consumption prior to exercise is key to top off glycogen stores and prevent early fatigue. Think sports drink, water, sports gummies, gel, a sports bar, piece of whole fruit, berries, or jam sandwich.
2 hours: Carbohydrate consumption with a small amount of protein constitutes an optimal pre-exercise snack. Limit fat and fiber consumption for better digestion and avoid processed foods.
3 + hours before exercise: A FULL MEAL. This should consist of a good amount of carbohydrates to fuel your muscles.
- Oatmeal with berries, almonds, and sugar, paired with a glass of milk
- Turkey Sandwich with whole grain bread, avocado, paired with a piece of fruit, glass of water
- Yogurt with berries, glass of 100% orange juice, handful of almonds, glass of water
- A salad with low fat dressing, whole wheat roll, apple with peanut butter, glass of water
During exercise fuel:
60 minutes or less, water is efficient to continue hydration. Greater than 60 minutes of exercise, carbohydrate intake is important to maintain glycogen stores.
Consume Gatorade or other sports drink with water. This helps relieve any GI distress from carb intake during exercise. Always consume water with your carbohydrates, protein, and fat to help aid in digestion. An orange or apple is also a good example, and sports gummies. Nutrition during prolonged exercise requires the proper mix and timing of fluids, carbohydrate, and electrolytes. Too little fluid or too much carbohydrate can result in cramping and other intestinal problems.
Post exercise fuel:
Your MAIN FOCUS should be consuming a good portion of carbohydrates and protein after exercise to rebuild and replenish your glycogen stores in the muscle. Replenishing your electrolytes lost through sweat is another important factor with recovery fuel. Provide protein to aid in repair of damaged muscle tissue and to stimulate development of new tissue. Fifteen minutes to one hour after exercise is the “window of opportunity.” A snack or meal with a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal. If you do not have an appetite following a training session, choose liquid foods that meet your recovery goals (sports drinks, chocolate milk, 100% fruit juice).
Snack ideas: Chocolate milk, banana with peanut butter, Greek yogurt with granola, smoothie with fruit/veggie and some Greek yogurt of protein powder, and graham crackers with peanut butter + fruit.
Meal ideas: Whole wheat pita with hummus or turkey/chicken, whole wheat pita sandwich with turkey and veggies + pretzels + low-fat milk, rice bowl with beans, cheese, salsa, avocado + whole grain tortilla chips or whole wheat tortilla, stir fry with lean steak, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots + brown rice.