You work hard right? Give your body a hand and increase your performance at the same time! Every time you eat, you consume specific types and amounts of nutrients. When you exercise, what you ate or didn't eat before your workout will make a big impact on how effective and enjoyable your exercise will be. You can experience nausea, cramping, muscle weakness, indigestion, and fatigue depending on what foods your body is processing while you are at the gym. We all know that eating a large meal right before working out or skipping lunch before that afternoon run can create an unpleasant exercise routine. Following some simple nutrition guidelines can increase the effectiveness of your workout routines and make them more enjoyable.
Eat Right, Train Better
It may not be the most pleasant thing to think about, but digestion is a big deal. Eating large meals before exercising puts extra strain on your body. Digestion, especially of meat, takes time. Muscle fatigue can happen if the body diverts energy to digestion and not to the muscles that are being worked and stretched. Metabolism, the speed at which your food is digested and converted into energy, differs from person to person so a sufficient amount of time between eating and working out will vary.
A common term used in the exercise world when talking about eating before a workout is "carb-loading." The idea is that loading up on carbohydrates before an intense exercise routine or run will give an extra source of fuel for muscle cells. This makes sense in theory because the body needs carbohydrates to create glucose, a simple sugar that feeds our muscles energy. The problem is that different types of food break down at different speeds. A large serving of pasta may have the correct amounts of carbohydrates that you are looking for. But the body must break down the starchy pasta to release the carbohydrates, which could take longer than your run and cause discomfort.
As is the case so often, the quality of the food you eat is always more important than quantity. Try simple foods like starchy vegetables, honey, dried fruit and energy gels. These will digest quicker and easier than whole food like pasta or potatoes.
Where Do Proteins and Water Fit into the Mix?
Sweating is good for the body, but sweat drains your body of water and can quickly lead to dehydration. It is important to not only stay hydrated while you are working out but also to be well hydrated before you even start. Have a glass or two of water 15-30 minutes before you start your workout. This allows time for the body to absorb the water and not have it sloshing around in your stomach causing cramping and general discomfort.
Protein is known as "the building block of life." Protein is the main building block of your muscles and tissue. If you are looking to build muscle during your workouts, having an excess of protein in your system will allow for your muscles to have a quick source to grow and strengthen. If you are looking for weight loss protein can help you as well. Protein gives your body something to work on, increasing natural calorie burning. Because protein is so essential to your body, when you consume it through something like a protein shake, your body will feel satisfied, and you probably won't feel as hungry.
There are many natural foods, primarily meat, fish, and eggs, that will provide you with the proteins that your body needs. The problem with these foods is that they are slow to break down, may provide discomfort during your workout and may be too slow to give the desired proteins during your workout. Protein shakes and powders require far less time for your body to break down, thus giving a more consistent schedule to your workout and exercise. These are no substitutes however for the protein and nutrients in natural food products so make sure you eat protein throughout the day.
Eating During Exercise
The need to eat during exercise depends on how much you ate beforehand, how long your exercise routine will be, and how intense your exercise will be. If you are in the midst of heavy, long-term training, you'll want to be careful to provide your body with the necessary nutrients it needs. Eventually, especially if you have low levels of body fat, your muscles will start to break down into simple proteins to give you the energy you need to keep going. Very few people will have this problem, but if you are doing intense weight loss or marathon/triathlon training or are focused on bulking up you'll probably want to replenish your body partway through the workout.
High-intensity aerobic workouts will result in faster dehydration. Perspiration will also cause the body to lose electrolytes as well as water. Long distance runners especially need to watch out for this problem because they are often in the sun, increasing perspiration, or are running in the cold and rain and won't notice how much they are sweating. Water and electrolyte drinks taken throughout the run will keep you healthy and allow for more enjoyable runs.
After The Workout
It is just as important to focus on your body's recovery as it is to focus on what you're doing before and during the workout. Exercise is hard on the body, muscles are torn, fat is burned, essential nutrients are depleted. Exercising your muscles creates micro tears. This is a good thing because those tears will "fill in" with new muscles, making them bigger and stronger. And to get the full benefit of the muscle growth, make sure you eat plenty of protein after the workout, especially after an intense bodybuilding routine. Reducing the time it takes for you body to recover requires you not only allow your body to rest, it also requires giving the body all the food it needs to get back what was lost.
Glycogen is the energy storing glucose in your body. Without replacing glycogen before the next workout your body will not have the quick access to the energy it will need and could reduce your athletic performance. Carbohydrates will replace the lost glycogen. Because very large amounts of carbohydrates would be needed to adequately replenish your body it is a good idea to combine carbs and protein. Carbs give your body the quick fix and protein gives it the long steady source for rebuilding.
To most help your body after a workout it is best to get the used up carbohydrates and proteins back in your system within 30 minutes of completing your workout. Your body is primed and ready to absorb and use these nutrients quickly. The quicker your body can recover, the less sore you will be and the sooner you will be ready for another workout. Always remember that quick absorption products like shakes and powders are helpful to your body before and during your workout but they don't replace the need for whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, meat, and eggs. Shakes before and a healthy meal after is a good way to treat your body right.
Nutrition Really Does Matter
While not consuming the appropriate nutrients at the most appropriate times won't kill you, it will have negative effects. It will slow down your progress. It will slow down your recovery times between workouts and it will generally just make you less comfortable overall. Supplying your body with rapidly digestible proteins and carbs and drinking plenty of water before and during your workout will result in a much more satisfying training session. And your body will thank you if you eat a well-balanced meal shortly after the workout. You will see results more quickly, which will bolster your commitment and get you to the next level of performance that much sooner.