Do you hop out of bed first thing in the morning and hit the gym? Maybe you prefer a late-night workout before bed. Either way, the food you consume pre- and post-workout is just as important as the workout itself. Many of us have had the experience of scarfing down a huge dinner post workout because we did not eat anything beforehand. Or, even worse, eating a large breakfast in a hurry before hitting the gym and, in turn, being faced with the dreaded side cramp. Plus, when you workout, you are breaking down your muscles and you need the right nutrients to build them back up leaner and stronger. To help you get the most out of your workout, there are certain things you should and shouldn't eat at certain times. I've put together some tips for every type of exerciser to help you stay on track throughout the day and get the best fuel for your body.
The Morning Mover
Are you a morning person? The kind that can roll out of bed, throw on your sneakers and head for the gym? Then eating a full breakfast may actually not be ideal. Your body needs time to digest the food you consume and this process usually takes about one to two hours. If you don't have that kind of time in the morning, then saving breakfast until after your workout may be best. A great way to get in vitamins and nutrients quickly before a workout and sustain your energy is with a green juice or a piece of fruit.
If you fall into the lucky group that can fit your workouts in during the day, my first recommendation is to make sure you drink plenty of water the first half of the day. I always say a liter by lunch is a great way to stay on track. Water will keep your body well hydrated, as well as keeping you fuller so you don't have a large lunch beforehand. If you plan on eating your lunch before you begin your workout, like I said before, make sure you give yourself at least an hour so you can digest.
A light option like a veggie burger over greens with a reduced-fat dressing and a hand-fruit (like an orange, apple, etc.) is a great option. Dr. Praegers and Hilary's have great veggie burger options. Keep a few on hand in your freezer when you are looking for a fast, light lunch. If you are eating lunch after your workout, you can opt for something a bit more substantial. Try a veggie burger or lean turkey burger in a high fiber wrap with some low fat cheese and a side of fruit.
Busy days can force us to push our workouts toward the end of the day. If you fall into the dinner-time crowd, your biggest challenge is making sure you do not overeat right before or after your workout. After a long day, followed by a rigorous gym session, it's easy to raid the refrigerator as soon as you get home. A good tip is to have a small, low-calorie snack waiting for you when you're done with your workout, like coconut water or a scoop of protein powder mixed with water. This will hold you over while you prepare a healthy dinner, plus rehydrate your body and help aid in recovery and building lean muscle. If you are in a rush to eat your dinner, Amy's Kitchen makes delicious and healthy frozen meals with options to fit any dietary need. And an added bonus for the late-night group: studies have shown that working out at night can actually lead to a better night sleep!
No matter your schedule or preference, the most important thing is to get up and get moving at some point during the day. Fueling your body with the right food and nutrients will really make those workouts worth your while!