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What to Eat Before, During and After Exercise

What to Eat Before, During and After Exercise

When we talk about nutrition in the context of a workout, the goal is fairly straightforward: Maximize anabolism, and minimize catabolism. Anabolic processes are processes that build up, rather than break down. This can be the building of tissue, organs, bones, etc. In terms of working out, we are usually talking about the building of muscle tissue. Testosterone, estrogen, growth hormone, and insulin are some of the anabolic hormones in our body.

Catabolic processes, on the other hand, break down cells, fats, or other molecules, usually for energy. They are regulated by hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and glucagon (glucagon is the opposing hormone of insulin).

In order to build muscle, you need to be more anabolic than you are catabolic, so it is true that your muscles won’t be both anabolic and catabolic at the same time. Instead, they exist on a sort of continuum. They will be anabolic or catabolic to a certain extent, but whichever process has the most force behind it is what will drive either hypertrophy (growth) or atrophy (shrinkage).

Pre-workout nutrition

Before hitting the gym you need to provide your body with the right nutrients to perform at your best. Your pre workout meal should be planned to do exactly this. The goal of your pre workout nutrition is to make sure you are at peak strength to begin working out, and to provide a steady stream of energy to your muscles and mind throughout your time at the gym.

The best pre workout snack is a food that raises your blood sugars slowly. These foods are slow digesting, therefore the sugars from the foods are released very slowly into your bloodstream, and your body releases small amounts of insulin at a time, which translates into a steady energy supply over several hours.

For the most part they are complex carbohydrate foods and most fruits, which should make up the basis of your pre workout nutrition. Now, with your pre workout meal, you should eat it at least 45 minutes before starting your workout so your food has time to settle. If eaten just before working out your body will not have time to digest the food and it will lay in your stomach because your blood has been diverted away from digestion and to the working muscles, causing you to feel bloated or sick.

Here are some good slow digesting (low glycemic index) pre workout foods:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup of pasta
  • A few slices of whole grain bread
  • Oats
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice

There are times when you don’t have time to eat before working out. In this case, you should turn to faster digesting foods which will give you a quick short burst of energy. They should be eaten 20–30 minutes before your workout.

  • Bananas
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Energy bars

Foods to avoid before exercise:

Foods with a lot of fat or fiber can be very difficult and slow to digest and remain in the stomach a long time. They also will pull blood into the stomach to aid in digestion, which can cause cramping and discomfort.

Meats, doughnuts, fries, potato chips, and candy bars should be avoided in a pre-exercise meal.

During workout

As well as eating before exercise and after exercise, it is also very important to make sure where appropriate, that food and fluid is ingested during exercise, in both training and competition. Food intake during exercise should be easy to swallow with limited chewing. Liquid options are often the best options; however this will depend on personal preference and ability to stomach certain foods. Below are few options:

  • Sports drink
  • Liquid meal supplement
  • Sports bar
  • Jelly beans
  • Bananas

Post workout nutrition

The post workout meal (the meal you eat after a workout) is probably the most important meal of the day for anyone who cares about nutrition or wants to build muscle, lose fat or improve their body. For about an hour after your workout, there’s a window of opportunity when your muscles are literally starving for nutrients. We call this the golden hour. And the meal you eat at this time is the most important for building muscle and replenishing energy sources.

The first thing your body needs is a nice fresh supply of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are used by your body for making muscles, hormones, neurotransmitters, bones and all sorts of other important things. Exercise depletes critical amino acids such as glutamine, valine, isoleucine and leucine–and the way you replenish your body’s supply is with protein.

The meal should be easily digestible, in order to rapidly induce muscle building. Muscle building, on the other hand, will help burn more fat.

Here are some ingredients that you can include in your post-workout meal:

  • Whey protein shake
  • Chocolate milkPineapples
  • Yoghurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Boiled egg whites
  • Chicken & mixed vegetables
  • Rasgullah (squeezed & washed in water)
  • Dried fruits & nuts
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Salmon & mashed potatoes
  • Cereal & skim milk
  • Fruit smoothie

Fat is usually difficult to be digested. Including fat in your post-workout meal will slow down the digestion and absorption processes. This is the last thing you’d want to happen after your workout. So, be sure to avoid a fatty meal.



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