Exercise and eating go hand in hand. You can’t do one without the other and get results. Research has shown that weight-loss/weight-maintenance is 70% diet and 30% exercise. This surprises a lot of people, because they think if they workout, they can eat whatever they want. Sadly, it’s A LOT easier to consume calories than it is to burn them. For example, to burn off one 20 oz. bottle of soda, you would have to run for approximately 50 minutes.
In addition, properly fueling yourself before and after workouts can really make a difference in your muscle development and recovery. If you go into a workout hungry, you will likely fatigue faster and won’t have as good of a workout. In contrast, if you slam a quarter pounder and a side of fries before hoping on the treadmill, you probably won’t feel so hot either. Eating a candy bar after lifting instead of a more nutritious option won’t result in maximal muscle production. The list of examples goes on and on.
Moral of the story, what you eat before and after physical activity does matter. It’s important to note that everyone is different. Some people tolerate certain types of foods and amounts better than others. Personally, I have to eat something small before I workout or I feel sick and like I’m going to faint…plus I’m ravenous after. My mom on the other hand, can’t tolerate anything less than an hour before working out, even if it’s something small, or she feels queasy. Use these tips as guidance and play around with them to find your perfect fit.
30-60 minutes before you exercise:
- Low fat
- Low protein
- Low in fiber
Why: Carbohydrates (found primarily in grains, fruits and dairy foods) give you a burst of quick, easy-to-digest energy, making them ideal to eat before your workout. Fat, protein and fiber take a longer time to digest, so limit these before exercising to avoid muscle cramps.
Sample snacks: granola bar, dried fruit or fresh fruit, crackers
15-60 minutes after exercise:
- High protein
- Moderate carbohydrate
Why: Protein (found primarily in meats, beans, nut and dairy foods) helps repair damaged muscles, making it the primary macronutrient of concern post-workout. You also want to consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates as well to help replenish your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. Be sure to drink plenty of water after a workout as well.
Banana with peanut butter, ½ sandwich low-fat yogurt with granola or fruit, crackers and cheese, trail mix, glass of chocolate milk