The main question everyone has is whether to fast or to feed? In order to sustain quality workouts, you must fuel up your body with relevant foods, for energy and repair, before and after you exercise. For this, you need to eat foods from high quality nutrition sources both pre and post-workout. We all know that protein is vital for muscle growth and carbs are crucial for energy, but certain foods are better than others for fueling up your body before you work out. After all, you use different muscles and burn out different levels of calories depending on if you’re lifting, doing HIIT or doing cardio.
Eating clean beforehand will give you the pump to rip up that work out. You should ideally eat at least 2 hours before the work out. This will do three things: sustain energy, boost your performance and speed up the recovery process.
Pre-workout food needs to have carbohydrates, some protein and some fat, to get you through longer workouts by providing you with energy. It also has to be light enough so that it doesn’t weigh you down or make you lethargic.
Let’s take a look at a few foods that can really help you burn those calories in a better way:
It is one of the most perfect pre and post workout food as it is loaded with digestible carbs, packed with minerals such as potassium and fiber which helps to maintain both nerve and muscle function. We can call them as ‘the natural power bar’. It is also linked to lowering the blood pressure, boosting the alertness, etc. It’s a total boss, actually. The carbs from this fruit break down quickly and the protein is used later to prevent the damage of muscle.
FRUIT/ NUT BARS
The energy bars are a perfect pre workout snack if you’re hitting the gym straight from work/office, as they are portable and energizing yet wholesome. They provide carbs to fuel up your muscles and are rich in fiber, protein, necessary fats, etc. It will keep your stomach satisfied and the energy levels up. Choose a bar which has around 200 calories with at least 4/5 grams each of protein and fiber.
It has double the amount of protein than a regular yogurt, has fewer carbs, sodium, and sugars, making it a pre-workout powerhouse. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, it is very easy on the stomach. What you get is a mix of fast and slow digesting proteins, which provide muscle-building amino acids while you work out. Aim for about 20 grams of protein in your yogurt. You can add fruit, whole-grain cereal or honey, for an extra kick of energy.
For a sustained workout, eating an avocado just a few hours beforehand can provide valuable and healthy fat for that energy boost when depletion of carbohydrates occur. As you don’t need a lot of fat, a small avocado is generally enough. But don’t be afraid of this kind of fat. It also contains vitamins that help your body metabolize all those healthy carbs and proteins you’ve been packing away.
NUTS & SEEDS
Munching nuts and seeds is the best for evening workouts as they cover all of your macronutrient bases, having carbs, protein, and fat. Eating a few nuts/seeds during a sustained workout can also provide a boost of energy to keep you going during endurance activities. Half a cup contains around 34 grams of protein. I personally love chia seeds, as they’re loaded with omega-3 fats for sustained energy, protein, and antioxidants. Having these just a few hours before a long, intense workout can really help in fueling up. You can even have them during sustained activity such as hiking or cycling to get a boost of energy.
High in protein and unsaturated fats, nut butters are a foodie’s favorite. However, almond butter is better than peanut butter for your pre-workout fueling up. It is minimally processed with few added sugars and also has double the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat. Moreover, almonds can protect against insulin resistance and prediabetes. Spread almond butter on a slice of wholegrain bread for a long, slow-burning energy supply.
They are packed with fiber. Slowly releasing glucose into the bloodstream without the insulin spike, and B vitamins boosts metabolic conversion, oatmeal gives you satiation and sustained energy. Steel-cut oats are the least processed as they are finely chopped. Ready-to-cook or instant oats are precooked, dried and mostly contain added sugar. So swap that instant oats pack with steel-cut oats.
Green tea is a great pre workout drink. It’s great because it does have some caffeine and it really relaxes you mentally but lets you perform physically. Research says that supplementing with green tea can raise your resting metabolic rate by 3 percent. To get maximum benefit, take green tea in loose-leaf form rather than teabag form and you must drink around 2 to 3 cups a day.
If you drink a shot of black coffee about 30 minutes before hitting the gym, you will surely experience a better bench press, increased endurance and speed, even a higher pain threshold and supports mental focus. Pretty cool, huh? Caffeine makes your muscles go ape shit, so take advantage of this!
Wholegrain bread is a very good source of carbs. And you can top it up with honey, low fat spread like almond butter, or eggs for high quality protein, etc. This means it has flexible partners. If you’re to hit the gym during lunch hours, eat this about 45 minutes before you head out.
Plan your exercise for the day, add some pre-workout supplements and nosh on these foods to fuel up your body to give your best during the workout.
So, how are you fueling up today?