Whether you are an experienced athlete, an avid weightlifter, or a gym-goer who is just concerned with improving their health, nutrition plays a key role in the results that we see from our workouts. There are countless pre-packaged options to choose from that are specifically designed to be consumed pre and post workout. These can be convenient, but often the bold labels and bright packaging can distract from the ingredients of what you are actually putting into your body. I am a firm believer in being intentional about what we consume and choosing what best suits our daily needs. Here is a simple breakdown of the nutrition your body needs before and after cardio or strength training.
Carbs has become something of a bad word to a lot of people who are looking to cut weight or maintain a healthy weight. This mindset, however, comes from a lack of understanding of the way that our body processes carbohydrates. Because your body is burning a significant amount of glucose (read: energy) during cardio sessions, you can provide your body with the energy it needs by consuming low glycemic carbohydrates anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes before you begin your workout.
- Low glycemic carbs are best for cardio workouts
- Fruit, Greek yogurt with honey, or a fruit smoothie are great choices
- Fiber and protein help to deliver a steadier supply of energy
- 75%-100% of pre-cardio consumption should be carbohydrates
The key focus of your post-cardio needs is hydration. For the average athlete, water is sufficient for this. After particularly strenuous exertion or if you are an endurance athlete, sports drinks may help to replenish electrolytes. However, these tend to be high in sugar content.
- Coconut water contains potassium and magnesium, making it a great alternative to sports drinks
- Low glycemic carbohydrates will help replenish the energy you have burned
- Healthy options could be a banana with peanut butter, a fruit smoothie with yogurt and low fat milk, or whole grain toast with almond butter
Strength Training Pre-Workout
Strength Training is a little different as far as what you consume and how long before your workout that you consume it. The protein needed to rebuild and repair muscles after strength training needs to be metabolized before it can be used. With that in mind, try to eat 1-2 hours before a strength-training workout.
- About 25% of your intake should be protein
- This can vary with weight, gender, and levels of exertion
- 75% of your intake should be complex carbohydrates
- Egg whites, spinach, whole grain toast and low-fat milk are great options
- Non-denatured protein powder in a smoothie provides you with enough nutrients for your workout
Strength Training Post-Workout
This is when you are going to be providing your body with the fuel it will be using to repair and build lean muscle. For post workout nutrition, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Post workout protein is more readily used for lean muscle building than fat storage
- A protein shake or meal within two hours provides the body with what it needs to build lean muscle
- A spinach salad with chicken breast or a protein shake would provide enough nutrients to replenish you after strength-training