We all know exercise can be difficult – difficult to find the motivation, difficult to accomplish goals, and sometimes difficult to enjoy. So we need the best possible start to workouts in order to get the maximum benefit.
One of the best ways to prepare for exercise, after ensuring correct equipment and having chosen from the best gyms near you, is to ensure the correct foods are eaten before and after your gym session. Diet is an important part of hitting your weight and fitness goals, but more than that, it plays a crucial role in optimal performance of your chosen
activity. Burger and chips before a spin session will probably result in you throwing up halfway through the session. Likewise, eating nothing before a spin session will mean you run out of fuel halfway through and topple off the bike in a state of total enervation.
So, where do you start? The pre-workout timing for your meal is of great importance. When you eat your brain diverts a large quantity of oxygenated blood to your stomach and gut in order to facilitate speedy digestion. This means that, coupled with the discomfort that can come from exercising with a full stomach, there is less oxygenated blood reaching your brain and muscles. You will therefore reach fatigue faster and so not get the best out of your session. For this reason, experts recommend you eat at least two hours prior to any planned exercise or gym regime.
But what to eat? Those on a traditional diet which focuses on complex carbohydrates coupled with low fat and calories should consider a shot of carbs to prime them for exercise. Small meals including pasta or rice with vegetables are optimal, but watch your portion size to avoid overloading.
People with specific diet issues such as, for instance, diabetes, should adjust their meal intake accordingly and ensure they keep a sugary snack or drink with them when they exercise to avoid an insulin crash.
People are increasingly turning away from traditional diets to what is becoming known as ‘ancestral health’. This is a movement which advocates a return to ‘functional fitness’ – a variety of simple exercises to strengthen the body ready to run, sprint, climb or jump as our ancestors did – along with the corresponding diet eaten by our forebears. This diet, commonly called the Paleo or Caveman Diet, advocates a high-fat, low carbohydrate diet. Ancestral Health practitioners should ideally eat a high-fat snack two hours before exercise. Examples include hard-boiled eggs, nuts and avocadoes.
After your workout session is complete, time is again critical in food consumption. Your metabolism will have been speeded up by the exercise and will stay elevated for some hours afterwards. Eating during this period will ensure you absorb the most nutrients whilst continuing to burn fat at a higher level.
Post-workout meals should always include some protein. Protein is excellent for building and repairing muscles, so any small muscle fibres torn during your workout will be repaired and strengthened. Protein in the form of lean chicken or turkey is good, or a protein bar for vegetarians.
People on the Paleo diet should avoid a high-fat meal after a workout as this can have adverse effects on the metabolism. In this instance, traditional and ancestral diets are the same.
So, high carb or high fat two hours before, and high protein after, your workouts will put you in the best physiological condition to optimise your exercise routine. With this sorted, you just need to concentrate on motivation, technique, and the myriad other things affecting your exercise regime!