If you are exercising on a regular basis and eat relatively well and still don’t achieve the results you want, then this article is for you. You more likely know WHAT to eat. The key might be WHEN to eat it. It can be difficult to lose body fat when you are trying to keep up the energy to fulfill your weekly training commitments.
Training vs Non-training Days
There has to be a difference in your food intake on the days that you are exercising vs the days you are resting. Ideally, split your total food intake in three meals plus two snacks per day. On the days that you are working out, add on a pre-workout snack and after workout snack to the list.
Eating Before Training
If you are going to burn calories at the gym, you want to plan enough calories to make your workout worthwhile. Showing up for a workout on an empty stomach will not generate the desired effect. Your body will look for energy and if you haven’t eaten anything, it will take energy from your muscles and bones. If the glycogen store is empty, your body will look for protein for fuel. Your workout will then make you weaker than you were before. It will shrink your muscles, making you lose muscle mass, not fat. Your muscles will be shrinking, changing your body composition.
Avoid solid food for at least one hour before any type of exercise, or two hours before a mid to high-impact cardio class. If you are working out after work at 6pm, then make sure you have a snack around 4pm. If you’re exercising early in the morning around 6am, you may not be able to eat two hours before your workout. So drink something before the class such as a sports drink/shake. That will avoid the heavy bloated feeling of solid food in your stomach when you workout. Bananas work for me in the morning before a workout. I usually make a banana shake with protein powder and water.
If you are working out mid-morning or mid afternoon, have a low glycemic index meal two hours before — the type of carbs that produces only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels. It will improve your performance. Avoid high-fat meals because fat slows down the digestion and stomach-emptying process. Try to stick to moderate fiber and protein.
What To Drink While Training
Water, water, water! Water is the best drink, certainly prior to exercise and during exercise of less than 90 minutes. If exercising more than 90 minutes, or if you tend to sweat heavily, then a sports drink is a good idea.
Sports drinks contain sodium, which stimulates absorption and decreases urine output. Together, these effects encourage better re-hydration than water alone. Also try gels if you’re a runner, but remember to make sure they are made with good, clean ingredients. I use coconut water. Unlike the sports drinks, it is natural and clean.
A great natural sports drink. Not to be confused with coconut milk. Coconut water is taken from young coconuts and is clear. The milk comes from more mature coconuts. Coconut water is a natural thirst-quencher that will help you rehydrate without all the added sugar of some sports drinks. Be aware of the imitation kinds with added sugar.
What To Eat After Training? Carbs And Protein
Within thirty minutes of your workout, you must have carbohydrates. Carry something with you to make sure you replenish—a fruit or something to get those carbs in within the thirty minutes. Muscle tissue is like a sponge, with big holes, and it’s wide open right after your workout. You need to fill the holes (with carbs) right after, or the next workout will feel “crunchy.” It won’t work as well.
Within two hours after strength training and cardiovascular training, you need to eat protein. The amino acids in proteins will act to rebuild your muscles and prepare your body for the next workout.
Gym Reward Syndrome
How do you battle hunger after a workout? Have you ever experienced huge after-workout hunger? You need to be prepared. Always know what will be your after-workout snack and prepare it in advance. Carry it in your gym bag. Otherwise, you will get out of the gym and don’t even make it home. The hunger will attack you, and you will grab anything (good or bad) that presents itself to you. Another thing to be aware of is the gym reward syndrome: You feel as if you are allowed a reward for working out. You just burned 400 calories, so you might as well get that fancy coffee with whipped cream and a shot of vanilla and that Danish right? And 800 calories later, you are up 400 calories after your workout. If you had not worked out, you wouldn’t have allowed the stuff you put in your mouth after.
Be careful not to undo everything you work so hard for at the gym. That means don’t overdo it in calories so you have a harder time losing weight. I often hear that from participants in my classes: I have been coming to the gym for months. I feel that I am getting stronger but am not losing weight, not fat. If that sounds like you, look closely at your gym reward syndrome.
Remember Your Water
Drink eight to ten cups per day—not including the water you take during your workout. Some people think that because they have this huge bottle of water that they use at the gym that they don’t need to drink for the rest of the day. The water you carry at the gym is only to replace the water you lose in your workout. You still need the eight to ten cups per day on top of it.