By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Healthy nutrition is key to meeting and maintaining our fitness goals. Aside from what we eat, though, are there other ways to use nutrition to lose weight faster, get the most out of our workouts, and burn the most fat?
When I first started to workout, I thought keeping a lower caloric intake, even if I was working out really hard, would give me the best results. When I began to study the human body and how it responds to exercise, however, I learned that I couldn’t be more wrong! I was actually causing myself to lose muscle.
A lot of us are not eating enough, so this is really important to understand. When you’re hungry, your body draws protein from your muscles, reducing your muscle mass and eventually slowing your metabolism. It’s so important to properly fuel your body before and after a workout so that you can give yourself energy to get through your workout and heal properly afterwards. Here are some examples of perfect meals and snacks to eat before and after your workout to increase muscle tone and stay lean.
The best pre-workout foods contain some form of complex carbohydrates and protein. Proteins are the building blocks for muscle growth, so they are important to have before a workout. Carbohydrates are also important to have so that you have energy for your entire workout. Fats, on the other hand, should usually be avoided pre-workout, because they slow your digestion down. Eating foods high in fat can often make you feel more sluggish, and sit in your stomach like a rock. The next time you’re looking for that ideal pre-workout energy boost, consider grabbing one of the following items.
I love Minsley oats because they are precooked, so you just have to heat them up and eat them on the road. They are also the only precooked brand I have been able to find that doesn’t add extra fats. Mixing in your favorite flavor of Legion Whey+ makes this the perfect snack, because it’s easy to prepare and gives you the carbs and proteins you need to kick butt when you exercise!
Both of these snack ideas are carb-heavy and will give you maximal energy. They are not high in protein, however, so make sure to take a shake right after you finish your workout if you choose either of these as your pre-workout bite. Speaking of post-workout meals:
The sooner you start eating after your workout, the better your body will be able to feed your sore muscles. Now you don’t have to run straight to the kitchen as soon as you leave the gym, but you shouldn’t wait forever, either. If you don’t eat within a two-hour window following your workout, you may slow your recovery. To maximize each workout, you should consume some protein, carbs, and fat this time, too! Fat post-exercise will help keep you satiated for a longer period of time, which is especially helpful if you had a really intense workout. The easiest way to do this is to have one of these snacks ready to go as soon as you’re done!
Adding bananas to your protein shake will increase the carbohydrate content, making it more beneficial after your workout. Bananas also contain beneficial nutrients such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and folate. The almond milk increases the fat content a little bit to keep you feeling fuller longer.
FitJoy Bars are a great protein bar post-workout mainly because they taste good and aren’t full of sugar alcohols, which seem to give many people upset stomachs when they eat too much of them. They are sweetened with Stevia, use no artificial sweeteners, and are grain-free! They also have a great balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, making them a great post-workout choice.
These bars are also sweetened with Stevia. They are higher in carbs and protein and a bit lower in fat, which is why they’re great post-workout.
Salmon and sweet potatoes are easy to digest and are absorbed faster by your body, helping speed up your recovery. Salmon is a fattier protein, which will keep you fuller longer, and sweet potatoes are a slow-releasing carb, giving you energy for several hours.
Eating the proper macronutrients before and after exercise is extremely important if you’re to get the results you want. Carbs and proteins are vital pre-workout, whereas you can also add fats into the mix post-workout. This will speed up your recovery time and increase your performance.