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While you might be wreaking havoc in the gym, research shows that what you eat before, during and after a sweat session is vital to your progress. Here are a few quick tips on how to harness the power of nutrition during your next workout.
Tip #1 - Consume carbs – There’s nothing worse than feeling full during your fitness routine. Avoid foods higher in fat and fiber before your workout to avoid the bloat. Pre-workout nutrition should consist mainly of foods that are higher in carbohydrates. About 30 minutes before your workout, grab 15-20 grams of easy-to-digest carbs like Greek yogurt, fruit smoothies and sweet potatoes and 10-15 grams of moderate protein like 2-3 ounces of chicken (the size of your palm or less) or two eggs to fuel your body for peak performance. Whether it’s Greek yogurt or a whey protein powder smoothie with fruit, nourish yourself with sufficient sources of both carbs and protein.
Tip #2 - Fight that hungry feeling – Feeling extra hungry after that last rep? It’s time to get a handle on that post-workout hunger. Fat and fiber should be consumed in moderation as they can slow down the absorption of the carbs and proteins your body needs.
Tip #3 - Eating aids recovery – Pending bodyweight goals and exercise intensity, you’ll want to focus on consuming roughly 25-35 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein like sweet potatoes or brown rice with 2-3 ounces of chicken breast or a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread and low-fat mayo within 1-2 hours post-workout to help restore glycogen and aid in muscle repair and recovery. If you are short on time or don’t have any sources of carbs and protein within reach, protein bars (like Quest or Pure Protein that are also higher in fiber) are a great on-the-go option.
Tip #4 - Stay hydrated –If you train hard by incorporating bouts of moderate intensity for 75 minutes or more and shorter bouts of HIIT or more intense interval training, you may want to try adding a low-sugar electrolyte + amino acid powder blend to your water for extra hydration. Including this tip into your fitness out routine can help to keep you properly fueled, maximizing your workout intensity. I prefer the powder blends, like Amino Action or Xtend, over the sugary Gatorade drinks.
Tip #5 - Avoid empty calories – If you are working out with the goal of losing weight, avoid or limit calories found in beverages like alcohol, soda, and coffee with creamers or sugar. They provide little to no nutritional value and do not benefit your fitness routine.
Tip #6 - Overcome that weight loss plateau – If training and/or dieting for weight loss, concentrate on eating most (if not all) of your carbs before and after your workout, snacking on small amounts of fruits and veggies throughout the day. Focusing your carb intake around your fitness schedule can be especially helpful if you have hit a weight loss plateau or are having trouble losing those last few pounds.
Tip #7 - Watch your carb intake on rest days – Your carb intake should mirror your activity level. On rest days, lower your carb consumption since extra carbs aren’t needed for workout fuel or recovery. Even on off days, I generally don’t recommend going lower than 75 grams of carbs because your brain and body still need carbs to function adequately.
Tip #8 - Maximize muscle gain – If your workout routine includes intermediate or advanced weight + strength training, and muscle growth is one of your goals, mix 20 grams of casein protein powder like Optimum Nutrition or Muscletech in water, unsweetened almond milk or low-fat milk within 15-30 minutes before bed. This helps maximize muscle repair, growth and synthesis—which mostly occurs while sleeping.