Physical activity should always be paired with a balanced diet, but it is not always easy to understand which are the most correct choices based on your needs.
What you eat before and after a workout, a run or gym class is essential to improve your performance, to recover easier from the fatigue of the workout and to reduce the risk of injuries.
The fundamental concept to remember is that there is no universal rule for everyone. Pre and post-workout nutrition depends on several factors, including physical predisposition, the type of training and the goals you want to achieve. However, there are some basic notions that can be useful to everyone.
In preparation for the physical activity it is important to provide our body with the right energy. As a car uses petrol as fuel, the human body uses carbohydrates.
It is also important to eat well in advance to make sure you digest and not feel full before training. It would be wise to eat between 1 and 3 hours before a workout. This is because, during a workout, the blood is mainly directed to our muscles, leaving our digestive system “at rest”.
What can you eat before a workout? It depends on when you decide to train.
· If you can eat 2-3 hours before then you should eat a complete meal based on carbohydrates, proteins and fats, because you will have time to digest it. If you train late in the morning: a full breakfast based on oats or whole grains or bread (carbohydrates) + Greek yoghurt (proteins) + nuts and seeds (fats). If you train in the afternoon, a full lunch based on pasta or brown rice (carbohydrates) + tuna or salmon (proteins) + extra virgin olive oil (fats).
· If you eat 1-2 hours before training, the meal must be simpler, based on simple carbohydrates and proteins. For example a fresh fruit smoothie (simple carbohydrates) + Greek yoghurt (protein); 2 rice cakes (carbohydrates) + a veil of jam (simple carbohydrates) + a veil of Greek yoghurt / cottage cheese / ricotta cheese (protein); 2 rice cakes (carbohydrates) + 1 slice of ham / bresaola / sliced turkey or chicken (protein).
· If, on the other hand, more than three hours have passed since your last meal, you can have a snack half an hour before training, the snack must be very simple with easily digestible carbohydrates. Examples: a banana, 2 dates, a fruit juice or a piece of bread (better if white).
What you eat after a workout is as important as what you eat before, if not more.
At the end of the training, the body enters the recovery phase; it must, in fact, recover the energy supplies that were used during the physical activity. After training, the body is in an anabolic state, which means that it is predisposed to repair and increase muscle mass.
Post-workout meals must include carbohydrates and proteins:
At the end of a workout, our body is very sensitive to insulin, which means that all the carbohydrates ingested will be converted into glycogen (our energy supplies) and not into fats, post-workout is the best time of the day to eat carbohydrates.
It is recommended to have a snack made of simple carbohydrates immediately after training (15 minutes-half an hour): a banana, a low-fat fruit yoghurt, a fruit juice, 2 rice cakes, 1 slice of white bread.
After a workout, it is also important to include a protein source to your meal, to repair muscles damaged by the physical activity and to create new muscle mass. It is recommended to have easily digestible proteins (therefore low in fat) to maximize muscle recovery: chicken breast, white fish, canned tuna, yoghurt, ricotta, cottage cheese, and protein powder.
Eating after work out is important, but remember that drinking is even more important !!! Make sure to drink a lot after workouts to avoid dehydration.
If you would like to know more on how to tailor your meals around your workouts, Federica is available for consultations at the Bondi Junction clinic. Phone 02 9389 0890 to book your appointment.