An optimal workout is always everyone’s target. Whether you are an amateur athlete who trains several days per week, or a professional athlete who takes physical activity seriously and who trains on a daily basis, you should know that exercising without paying a particular attention to your food intake is not a good idea!
The American Dietetic Association, the Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine are three organizations that demonstrated that physical activity, athletic performance and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition. They recommend appropriate selection of food and fluids, as well as the ideal timing of their intake for optimal health and exercise performance. So what do they actually recommend?
1. Before your workout:
You should never workout on an empty stomach. Your body can be compared to an engine and its fuel is the food you consume. Therefore, if you choose to exercise without fueling your body first, you won’t have enough energy available to work out properly and to last long enough during your physical activity session. The main focus in your pre-workout snack is on carbs, since they will be your primary source of energy while working out. Unlike what most people think, proteins and fats are not a part of a pre-workout snack since they take time and more effort from your gastro-intestinal system to be digested and will cause discomfort while you’re exercising. Note that your main meal should be consumed at least 2 to 3 hours before exercising, that way you will have enough time to digest it. If you’re wondering what kind of food you can consume before heading to the gym, here are some examples:
- A cup of corn flakes with some dried fruits
- A couple of toasts with some jam or honey
- Cereal bars
2. During your workout:
As long as your training session lasts for an hour or less, you won’t be needing to consume any additional nutrient intake. For those of you who train for more than an hour, you will need to ingest a source of sugars and fluids while exercising. The most practical thing to do is to choose a sports drink that contains sugars, minerals and fluids in order to stay hydrated and to provide your body with enough energy sources to finish your training.
3. After working out:
The anabolic window, which is the time your body repairs and restores the muscle fibers and the nutrient stocks you used, happens during the 30-45 minutes following your workout. Try to consume your post-workout meal during this time margin.
You should focus on three main nutrients after you finish your workout:
- Fluids: remember that you lost a lot of fluids through sweating, so make sure to drink enough water.
- Carbs: you used your carbs while exercising and now you need to restore them. Therefore, make sure that your post-workout meal includes: breads, pasta, rice, potato…
- Proteins: they help you repair the muscles you used during physical activity. Foods that are rich in proteins are: lean meat cuts, chicken breasts, fish, turkey, cheeses, tuna, eggs, legumes…