If you want to power through your strength training workouts with ample energy, knowing what to eat may not always be that clear-cut. Should I eat carbohydrates or protein before hitting the weights? Is exercise on an empty stomach better for fat burning? If I do eat, how much time should I allow before exercising? What you think is normally healthy for your day to day diet “may not necessarily be a good choice for a workout” according to Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who works with professional athletes.
Follow these helpful guidelines on what and when to eat before your workouts as well as ways to recover from it.
Carbs and Protein -have a balanced snack with both carbs and protein about an hour or more before your date with the weights. Carbohydrates in food help prevent muscle breakdown and fatigue, while the protein helps muscles grow and repair. If the timing doesn’t work for you and you are the type to roll out of bed right before you workout try eating something that will digest easily. Some find it easier to handle a small smoothie (plant or whey based) mixed with almond milk and some berries tossed in. If you typically train in the evening after work grab a small apple with a few teaspoons of nut butter, or a slice of whole grain toast smeared with hummus (chickpeas are a great source of protein)
Remember, the meal shouldn’t be so large it weighs you down, which will only make you feel sluggish.
I do have to say that I often don’t have a whole lot of time to prepare a snack so I have my old stand-by grab and go snack, a banana. Although a banana is pretty low in protein (only 1.3 grams) it provides 27 grams of carbs which will be a great source of energy, as well as 3 grams of dietary fiber, for digestive health. I may also grab a small handful of cashews or walnuts to have along with my banana to boost the protein. Nuts are calorie dense and do contain good for you fats so be conscious of portion sizes.
H20 and Sports Drinks- You really don’t need any thing else other than water for sessions under an hour, or for lower intensity training days. Being properly hydrated also hinders fatigue that can set in if you tend not to drink enough liquids through out the day. Sip water during your training as well as after, to replace fluids lost in sweating. Reserve sports drinks for heavy lifting days or for endurance sports such as cycling, running and race training.
Recovery- Your body has a “metabolic window” when your muscles readily absorb nutrients in your food, says Leah Kaufman, RD, a New York City nutritionist. Try an almond milk or water based protein shake containing 20-25 grams of protein within 20-60 minutes. A snack with protein and carbs is ideal to repair the small tears and stress put upon it by weight training, thus reducing soreness. If you’d rather have a solid source of protein opt for one or two hard boiled eggs with 1/2 whole grain english muffin or a 6 oz container of greek yogurt topped with fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or walnuts.