So you’ve eaten your healthy meals and snacks for the day, and fitted in a workout, too. There’s not much more you could be doing to ensure a balanced lifestyle right? Wrong! That’s because while it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition throughout the day, it’s equally as important to pay attention to your pre- and post-workout nutrition, too.
“What you eat before and after you work out is a balancing act of giving your body the right amount of fuel at the right time,” says Sandi van Zyl, a registered dietician at Virgin Active SA. All it takes is a few simple guidelines and you’ll be able to optimise your training session, and your body’s response to it as well.
To fuel your body before you hit the gym, all you need is a light meal one to two hours beforehand. “Choose something relatively low in fibre and fat,” recommends Sandi, “so that you don’t feel too full or bloated during your exercise session.” If you’re pressed for time, a quick snack just before training will also do the trick. Try these handy meal ideas out for size and see how your body responds:
- Got time? A bowl of oats with berries will give you a good hit of carbs and amp up your energy levels before training.
- Get your snack attack on with a three-quarter cup of full-fat Greek yoghurt, a spoon or two of granola and half a cup of berries. If you’re extra hungry, a few raw nuts will add the bulk you need.
- Save time in the mornings by grabbing a handful of raisins and a banana on the way out. It’s a super simple snack that packs a huge energy punch.
“For optimal recovery post-workout, you want to try and eat or drink something within 30-45 minutes of completing your training session,” says Sandi. Ideally, you should be looking at a meal with enough carbohydrates to replenish the energy lost during your workout, and protein for speedy muscle recovery. Experiment with these meal ideas to find the post-workout fuel that works best for you:
- Pressed for time? A green smoothie is a good option. Bulk it up with tofu, almond milk and chia seeds, keeping in mind your kilojoule count, particularly when drinking protein shakes. Unless you’re looking to gain weight, you shouldn’t consume more than you’ve burned during your workout.
- Training can boost your appetite considerably, so if a hearty meal is what you’re after, lean protein options like fish or chicken paired with vegetables and couscous or brown rice are always a good choice. “You’re unlikely to need more than 1-1.2g of carbohydrate/kg body weight and 0.2-0.3g protein/kg body weight as a recovery meal,” advises Sandi. And if you do eat post-workout, skip any snacks or shakes you might have had planned, as these can add unnecessary kilos, too.
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