Easter is around the corner and we all know the temptations of the holidays can be a real struggle. Try to get a few workouts in to set a healthy and active tone for the short break. When working out we look to perform better and reach our goals. “Nutrition plays an important role in fitness and performance, especially what you eat before and after a workout,” according to Ivana Buchannan, Programme Manager at Zone Fitness.
Fueling your fitness with the proper nutrition will help to maximize the benefits of all your hard work at the gym. After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow muscle proteins. The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout.
Protein, Carbs and Fat
Carbs = energy. When we eat them, they break down into glucose, enter our muscle cells, and give us fuel to exercise at our maximum capacity. Your body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them.
The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training. If you participate in endurance sports (running, swimming, etc.), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.
Examples of simple and easily digested carbs:
- Sweet potatoes
- Chocolate milk
- Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
- Rice cakes
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
In addition to carbs, you have to consume a little bit of protein before your workout, especially if you are doing weight training. When we exercise (i.e. lift weights), we create small tears in our muscle fibres. Protein helps those muscles heal and grow stronger, which ultimately is the goal.
Examples of lean protein:
- Animal- or plant-based protein powder
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Protein bar
Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits. It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.
Examples of the good kind of fat:
- Nut butters
- Trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)
- Timing is everything
The ideal time to eat before a workout is between 30 minutes to three hours before. If you’re working out first thing in the morning, you probably won’t be able to eat a whole meal so try to have a small snack or mini-breakfast. If you are exercising later in the day have a 100- to 150-calorie snack 30 minutes to an hour before your workout.
Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise. Therefore it’s recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising. Have your post-workout meal within 45 minutes of exercising.
Sample Pre-Workout Meals and Snacks
- Snack: A smoothie with 1 cup of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables
- Snack: An apple or pear with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- Snack: ¾ cup of Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon granola and ½ cup of berries
- Snack: 2 tablespoons of dried fruit and 1 tablespoon of raw, unsalted nuts
- Snack: 100-calorie granola bar
- Snack: 1-2 rice cakes topped with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
- Meal: Oatmeal with a tablespoon of peanut butter and ½ cup of fruit
- Meal: 115 g baked salmon, ¾ cup of brown rice, with 1 cup of roasted veggies
- Sample Post-Workout Meals
- Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables.
- Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast.
- Salmon with sweet potato.
- Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread.
- Tuna and crackers.
- Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds.
- Cottage cheese and fruits.
- Pita and hummus.
- Rice crackers and peanut butter.
- Whole grain toast and almond butter.
- Cereal and skim milk.
- Greek yogurt, berries and granola.
- Protein shake and banana.
- Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans.
- Multi-grain bread and raw peanuts.
We are all looking forward to the break, but many of us are dreading the family feasts where healthy food options are limited. Don’t fall into temptation! Ditch the unhealthy stuff and binge on the examples of tasty but guilt-free meals and snacks. “This Easter holiday, try to stay focused on your goals and snack on the above mentioned foods and meals before and after hitting the gym,” says Ivana Buchannan.