Workout Fueling: Set-Up for Success
Health and fitness can be a very multi-faceted journey, the greatest success will always come when several different pieces all fit into one consistent practice. One excellent and easy way to make sure that you are ready to succeed towards your fitness goal (or goals) is to nail 3 major pieces to the fitness puzzle in one fell swoop. Having the right selection of fuel pre and post workout will do 3 massive things for you; help you with your nutrition, ensure that you are prepped for an effective and energetic workout, and finally help your body in recovery to get you ready for the next one.
Here are some good concepts to make sure that you can nail each workout with the right practice for nutrition:
1) Friends don’t let friends workout under-fueled
No matter how many people you have heard tell you how great they feel working out on an empty stomach, you can be smarter. You don’t need a 3 course meal before a workout and a bloated stomach to be properly fueled for a good workout. If you want energy and function for a workout that will affect your body, then you should look to have something easily digested about 45 minutes prior to your session. Avoid anything very high in fiber that might cause GI discomfort, but 200-300 calories of simple carbohydrates and a little healthy fat is a solid starting point. A good example could be a simple fruit smoothie (preferably berries pre-workout for the excess of electrolytes) with 1 cup of almond milk and ice.
There are fewer myths as over-done as working out on an empty stomach will help tap in and burn fat storages. I get anxiety every time I hear people talk about that. Of course we all have plenty of stored energy in our glycogen and body fat, but by starting out depleted and then forcing your body to pull energy from storage is not the way energy in our system was intended to be employeed in starting a workout, that is more so the effects of the metabolic process of system recovery and rejuvenation. If you try to train by constantly digging into storages, then you are not training your system to utilize and be efficient with free-floating blood glucose and free-fatty acids (also of which a simple 200-300 calories can absolutely create).
If you want to change or progress you simply have to achieve higher levels of exercise, and that doesn't happen in storage.
2) What you don’t know about water
No matter how many times I tell people how crucial water is to health, it still gets under-utilized time and time again. During your workout, it is extremely important for your body to keep a certain level of hydration for muscle function. This will have a huge impact on how long you can workout for at a desired intensity. Not only that, but drinking electrolyte-enhanced water during your session has actually been shown to reduce soreness in the days following exercise. By keeping a steady “drip-feed” of water going into your body every 15-20 minutes during exercise can keep your blood volume up and your muscles lubricated, which in turn can prevent muscle damage and thus soreness in the following days. So workout harder with water!
One Tip: Add some electrolytes to truly capture HYDRATION. The fact is, plain, cold water can actually be used more to cool down core temperature and be displaced quickly to the gut and adds to a likely brewing storm, especially during endurance training or events. By adding in electrolytes (I even like using fresh lemons) you can ensure that this water is being transported into your blood stream to help replenish blood volume.
3) The unsung hero of fitness, RECOVERY!
The cold hard fact is that you could be on the greatest training program ever written, but if you are not giving your body the right materials to rebuild then you might as well be a couch potato and save the energy. Progress comes from the energy it takes to rebuild and recover from worked muscles and organs in the body, it burns fat, and provides the shapely muscular changes that we want. You should be focused on getting something healthy into your body with-in 30 minutes of completing a workout session, my recommendation is a healthy meal of carbs and proteins at a ratio of 3 carbs : 1 protein (varies per person and intensity of session).
One of my favorites is a low-fat chocolate milk (yes, it can be good post-workout) and greek yogurt. That gives me about 42 grams of carbs to replenish the energy I used, and about 15 grams of protein to capture that muscle repair process right away. Your next meal can be in about 90-120 minutes of balanced carbs, protein, and fats.
Keep up the good nutrition!