In order to provide optimal athletic performance, the body needs proper and nutrient-rich fuel. In order to give it that proper fuel, the body needs practice digesting and producing energy. Both pre-workout meals and post-workout meals are equally important.
Nutrient Timing and the Pre-Workout Meal
Selecting the proper nutrients for your pre-workout meal is crucial because this meal will provide appropriate energy levels that you need to maintain throughout the workout. If you are working out early in the morning, a quick apple, banana, or fruit smoothie will do the trick. If you are awake for a few hours before working out, a larger carbohydrate meal, such as steel-cut oatmeal, is in order. However, a larger carbohydrate meal may cause an issue if it is consumed too close to the start of the workout. This is because after you have just eaten a meal, blood rushes to the digestion system to aid in processing the food you just consumed. Therefore, less blood is available for the muscles.
Post-Workout Nutrient Recovery
After you exercise, your body is depleted of resources and it is essential that you resupply your body with good nutrition. Eating the right nutrients is key to rebuilding muscle tissue and replacing glycogen stores (a fancy name for the carbohydrates that our body keeps on-hand for energy), thereby producing a better recovery. All the macronutrients - proteins, carbs, and fats - play an important role in the recovery process.
Protein is the main building block in muscle recovery. While a person trains, they are essentially breaking down muscle (so that it can rebuild to be stronger). Protein carries the amino acids that your body will need to build muscle back up.
Fats are also important, but oftentimes, people believe that since it slows down digestion, it is not the optimal food to take in after a workout. While it does slow digestion, fats (in moderation) round-off a well-balanced meal.
Finally, it is important to take in carbohydrates as part of your post-race meal in order to replace the depleted glycogen stores. In layman’s terms, you lost your energy and now you need to replace it! Now, this does not mean that one should eat a dozen doughnuts after a workout (as delicious as that does sound)! Below are some examples of appropriate and tasty food choices:
Approximately Two Hours Before Workout
Oatmeal w/ Raisins and Pecans
Toast w/ your favorite nut butter
Quinoa or brown rice w/ raisins, fresh fruit, and nuts
Shortly Before Workout
Grilled Chicken w/ Roasted Veggies
Avocado Toast w/ Egg Omelette
Greek Yogurt, Fruit, and Granola
Pita Bread, Veggies, and Hummus
Whole Grain Toast and favorite Nut Butter
Of course, take into account your own nutrition knowledge of your own body and how it works. This article is a general overview. Talk to a coach, trusted friend, or nutritionist about your SPECIFIC needs and FUEL those workouts!