Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Don't forget to pack a snack!

Last week I talked about meeting food and fluid recommendations during workouts. This is a critical part of your training plan. But often-times more important is how well you fuel before and after that workout. Food is energy, and without enough of it at the right time, you are risking illness and injury to your body and will delay gains in muscle, speed, and endurance. This week I'll focus on what you should be eating before a workout. Come back next week to see why your job doesn't stop when the workout ends.

So you're supposed to eat before you train...But what to eat? For many of you, a pre-workout snack may consist of whatever you can find in your car on the way to the gym after work…or perhaps that mid-afternoon diet coke or vending machine visit normally suffices. However, don’t underestimate the importance of fueling your muscles properly before a workout. Eating ~60 minutes before a workout tops off your liver and muscle glycogen (stored energy), which allows you to maintain intensity throughout your workout. In addition, when you store energy from carbohydrates, you also store water. About 2.7 grams of water is stored with each gram of glycogen. This means that your body will be better hydrated during the workout.

Ideally, you should be consuming ~30-50gm of carbohydrate and 10-20gm of protein in a pre-workout snack. Carbohydrates are foods such as bread, potatoes, crackers, fruit, bagels, and oatmeal (to name a few). Protein is found in foods such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, tuna, lean meats and poultry, and nuts. Pre-workout snacks also need to be low in fiber and low in fat, which both slow down digestion. Too much “slow” 60 minutes before a workout can mean some seriously uncomfortable GI issues or can simply delay nutrients getting to your muscles by the time you begin exercising.
Here are some great examples of snacks that meet all of the above guidelines. 60 minutes before your workout, reach for one of these:
  • 1 banana with 1.5 Tbsp of peanut butter
  • 16 animal crackers + 8 fl. oz. of skim milk
  • 1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts + 1/4 cup raisins
  • 4 Fig Newtons + (1) light string cheese
  • 1 piece of bread + 1 Tbsp jelly + 1 Tbsp peanut butter
Keep in mind that what athletes can tolerate is very individual. For example, I could never drink milk before a run, but I can pretty much eat anything before a bike workout. Try out a few different snacks and pay attention to how you feel during your workout. There are also a lot of great granola bars that meet the above guidelines. In fact, storing a box of granola bars in your car just for pre-workout snacks can be a great help for those on-the-go athletes. Try Nature Valley or Kashi for starters!

Of course after reading last week's blog, you'll know that with that pre-workout snack, you should be adding water that you have also been drinking consistently throughout the day...right?

Want to know what you should do after you workout? You'll just have to wait until next week...

Be extraordinary,

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