Every health enthusiast realizes the importance of undergoing a daily workout in order to get in the best possible shape. But this is only half the battle. Monitoring meals and snacks can actually be the major differentiating factor in achieving positive long-term results. Many are under the misconception that in order to burn the most calories one must stick to a strict diet that consists of little to nothing. This couldn’t be any further from the truth.
The type of food and the time of day it is eaten can make or break someone’s workout regimen by determining how calories are stored and used. Choosing the right foods to eat before and after a workout, whether the workout is light, heavy, or spent on one of the best elliptical machines, is essential to how the body will respond to the workout and how it will use the energy throughout the day. Having a steady dose of fiber and protein is vital to maintaining a healthy physique and contains nutrients that help regulate the rise and fall of the blood’s glucose levels. Protein and fiber also controls the response of insulin, whose job is to put glucose into cells at a normal rate, which prevents the crash and burn effect. So in short: people who don’t have enough protein and fiber in their diet are more prone to falling into a counterproductive cycle of eating more calories.
Pre-Exercise Early risers who head straight to the gym or treadmill have absolutely no source of fuel to get them through their first workout. Rather than running on empty through the entire session, or on just a single glass of sugary juice, have a moderate intake of whole grain cereal that’s high in fiber, with a splash of skim milk. Add a small piece of fruit or juice if desired. Try to eat this at least one hour before the morning workout to allow proper digestion and absorption. The heavier the meal the longer one should wait to work out. Pre-workouts are a good time for eating carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, bagels, egg on toast, and rice. Other pre-exercise meal options are chicken and brown rice, pasta, salad, sweet potatoes, tuna, peanut butter, and yogurt. And also make sure to drink plenty of fluids; water is preferable.
Post Exercise While pre-exercise meals are meant to be light and allow for easy digestion, post exercise meals should be utilized as the most important meals of the day to build muscle and trim fat. After a heavy workout, the body is nearly depleted of glycogen and glucose, but can be replenished and used as fuel with certain foods. A baked potato with cheese or a side of fruit is a great provider of carbs and protein. Whey protein is good if a meal lacks the proper amount of protein, but it shouldn’t be taken alone. Vegetable soups hit the body faster than whole foods, and are great during the middle of the day after a light workout. Turkey with whole grain bread is the perfect carb to protein equalizer. For light snacks stick to apples, celery, or protein bars that contain little to no sugar.