Workout fuel: 6 tips from your dietitian
Want to maximise your results and perform at your best? Then you need to eat smart. It’s not just about running out of juice halfway through a tough workout – everything from your readiness to hit play to your results hinges on your nutrition.
You’ve been there, I’m sure: you haven’t really got the energy today, so you just go through the motions on a few lunges and cheat on the depth of your squats to get it over and done with. Did that session really do any good for your booty, at all? Probably not.
In fact, when your body doesn’t have enough energy to draw on during a workout, your skill and focus can deteriorate, you can lose muscle mass, increase your risk of fatigue and injury, and set back your recovery process. But with the right fuel to power your performance, you have what it takes to make every lunge, squat and minute count. And that will get you to your goal faster.
So what does eating to fuel your performance look like? We asked Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton to break it down and make our pre-workout and post-workout nutrition easy.
Rules for pre-workout eating
When you’re gearing up to smash your goals with a challenging workout, it’s not just what you eat, but when. In other words, you need to be strategic with your eating.
Rule 1: Make sure there’s fuel in the tank
Are you going to be pushing yourself for longer or at a higher intensity in this workout? Then you need to make sure you’ve eaten enough. You may have bought into the notion that working out on an empty stomach will help you lose weight, but it certainly won’t help you maintain and build muscle. You might be able to do a lower-intensity workout a little bit hungry, but don’t leave your body without any fuel when you’re trying to do your best.
Rule 2: Fuel up at the right time
Are you working out before breakfast? Have a snack an hour before you start. The combo of carbs and easily digested protein in a Fruit & Nut Snack Cup will do the job.
Do you work out in the late afternoon, or after work? Try to time it so that you have a lunch that includes carbs, protein and healthy fats around three to four hours prior to your workout. Think a Zesty Chicken & Vegetable Salad or a Smoked Salmon Bruschetta.
Then have a top-up snack an hour or two before you start working out. Pre-workout protein is especially important if you want to get the most out of strength training. A snack like the Chocolate & Almond Rice Crunch Squares from the Emily Skye FIT app will give you a great energy boost and help you make it to the end of a tough session.
Rule 3: Factor in your goal
Are you working out to burn fat? Stick with a snack lighter in carbs like a banana. And if you’re heading into a high-intensity, plyometric cardio session, snack light an hour before you start. Taking on too much fluid or food before a workout can cause friction around your stomach, which can lead to a stitch.
Fuel your body the smart way with a Zesty Chicken & Vegetable Salad.
Rules for post-workout nutrition
Now you’re ready to be more strategic with your pre-workout nutrition, don’t skimp on the other end. The food you eat AFTER a workout is as important to your outcomes as your dumbbells and the number of reps you pound out.
Rule 1: Protein is power
If you want to build strength and add lean muscle, your muscles need protein to fuel their process of repair and growth.
Rule 2: Top up on carbs
And because you burned a lot of energy, you need carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores to allow your body to recover – and help you perform at your best when you come back to do it all again tomorrow.
So what do rules 1 and 2 actually mean? Basically, it’s important that you get good quantities of protein in the hours after training, and even the next day. So after an intense workout, reach for a snack with a good amount of protein and carbs, like a Cookie Dough Snack Smoothie, within 1-2 hours.
Rule 3: Drink some water!
Finally, don’t forget to hydrate! The benefits of drinking plenty of water shouldn’t be news to anyone – but good levels of hydration help regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, deliver nutrients to cells and keep your organs functioning as they should.
Remember, the food you eat isn’t a reward for all your hard work and sweat, but an integral element in achieving your fitness goals.
Advanced Sports Dietitian
Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton is an expert on achieving optimum performance in sport. She has advised elite athletes and sporting teams in Australia, and holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Movement, a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics, and certificates in Sports Nutrition and in Fitness. She’ll help you cut through the nutrition myths to fuel your goals.
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