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Essentially WHAT you should eat depends on the aim of your workout – are you building muscle or improving your fitness through cardio? Also, WHEN you eat is just as crucial; it’s timing dependent on what foods you’ve chosen to use to fuel-up.
If building muscle is your game, as well as losing fat and increasing your metabolism at the same time, then you’ll want a pre-workout meal which focuses on lean proteins. Some of the best lean proteins are grilled meats, eggs (or egg whites), low-fat Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese – anything low in fat and high in protein. These foods contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which help increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown during and after your workout, minimising muscle wastage and maximising muscle-building opportunities.
If you’re going for a high-energy cardio workout, then you’ll need to consume items that are higher in complex carbohydrates, to give you enough slow released energy to push yourself through an energetic workout. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates like quinoa, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and green leafy vegetables help to fill up your glycogen stores and also create a more anabolic effect. Avoid carbohydrates like processed foods, grains, wheat, sugar and high-starch root vegetables (no potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or beetroot) which convert to sugar and negatively impact on the results of your workout.
If you’re doing a combined workout, like interval training, then simply eat a balance of the two – protein and carbohydrates – focus on fibre, this will fill you up so you don’t get hungry. Don’t over-eat and keep your calories to between 200 and 350 depending on your weight and workout plan.
WHEN TO EAT
Also, remember that WHEN to eat is just as crucial. Eating on an empty stomach (unless it’s first thing in the morning to kick start your metabolism with a post-work out breakfast) is generally not recommended, although it does work for some people. Knowing how long to eat before your workout helps is the key to maximising your results and minimising any pre or post workout fatigue.
FOOD DIGESTION TIME
Different types of foods take different times to digest, from the stomach to the small intestine, which is when its nutrition is available for absorption and use by the body in your workout.
Proteins take around 3-4 hours to digest, muscle-building workouts benefit from eating a high-protein low-fat meal containing 100 to 250g of raw protein weight (size depends on your body weight) 3-4 hours before working out. Mix your high protein up with some non-starchy vegetables for a boost of low GI energy.
Carbohydrates take around 2-3 hours to digest but simple carbohydrates like sugar, grains, flours and starchy vegetables convert quickly and, while they release energy, it’s a short burst that can also throw your insulin balance out. Low-GI complex carbohydrates give you sustained slow release energy that lets you power through your workout.
Dietary fat takes 6-8 hours to digest, so it’s best to consume high-fat (good-fat) foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon in the meals following your workout.
If it’s been longer than 3-hours since your last meal and you’re soon to hit the gym consider adding a pre-workout snack, such as an orange or an apple, or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries with a little low-fat Greek yoghurt a couple of hours beforehand. Most fruits, including convenient bananas, are too high in simple fructose sugar which reduces the benefits of your workout; slows your metabolism and raises your body’s natural weight set point.
|Work Out Type||Foods to Eat||Eat Before Workout|
|High Energy Cardio||Complex Low-GI carbohydratesIncluding green leafy veggies||2-3 Hours|
|Resistance or Weight Training||Lean Protein 100g-250gGreen leafy veggies||3-4 Hours|
|Combination Workout||Mix of the two above||3-4 Hours|
|Emergency Fuel||Apple, Orange, Berries and/or low-fat Greek yoghurt||2 Hours|
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