Most of us have hit plateaus or felt frustrated when striving to meet our exercise goals.
Nutrition is a key factor in how well our body is going to perform during a workout, so it’s important to understand how different foods can give us the energy we need to challenge ourselves.
Macronutrients are the carbohydrates, proteins and fats in our food, and they each serve a purpose during workouts:
- Carbohydrates are the fuel, giving us quick energy
- Protein is what helps our muscles work well during a workout and recover afterward
- Fat fuels the body for longer workouts
The timing of when you eat each is also important.
“While not eating before a workout seems like it will burn more fat, your body can actually become less efficient and you won’t get as much out of your workout,” said Robyn Rohrig, registered dietician at Carilion Wellness.
About an hour before your workout, she says you should consume foods with carbohydrates and a little bit of fat. The carbohydrates will provide energy short term and be burned faster while the fat can help you from tiring too quickly.
A snack with no more than 200 calories is best—like a slice of toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter or Greek yogurt with granola.
After your workout, you can begin to repair the muscles you have broken down during exercise by eating protein.
“Protein shakes and bars are an acceptable form of good nutrition after a workout, but pay attention to grams of protein per serving,” said Robyn. “More protein doesn’t equal more muscle—your body can tolerate around 20 grams of protein at any one time, but more than 20 grams results in the excess protein being stored as fat when it can’t be digested right away.”
You can also opt for something like grilled chicken with vegetables or a turkey wrap with hummus to get post-workout protein.
It is always important to listen to your body during exercise. If you feel lightheaded or not quite right, take a break and determine if you need a quick snack (fruit is good for easy, digestible sugar), water for hydration or if your exercise needs to be modified in any way.
Talk to you doctor or dietitian about your workout plan to find out more about what might be right for you.
Or read more about food and exercise:
Athletes May Need More Protein
Top 5 Healthy Snacks
What Should You Drink After Exercising?