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Knowing what to eat and when to eat it can be the ultimate ally to a workout routine. What you put into your system before and after a workout will decide the fate of how well your body responds to the exercise. It can make you feel sluggish and unmotivated, or it can energise you and give you strength. Knowing which foods to eat before and after a workout, along with which foods to avoid, will go a long way to improving your regimen.
The goal is to gain more energy and endurance for your workout, so the foods you want to focus on are good quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean proteins, and a lot of water. Carbohydrates provide quick energy to the muscles, proteins bring oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, and staying hydrated will help your body endure the exercise.
Perhaps the most important component of workouts is staying well hydrated. Water is the body’s cooling system and will, of course, prevent dehydration when your body is putting out a great deal of sweat. Drinking a couple of cups of water a couple of hours before a workout, along with drinking plenty of water throughout the day is sufficient to keep you hydrated during exercise. It is better to stick with regular, filtered water than a sports drink.
While there is no ideal meal to eat before a workout, there are certain things you can focus on to ensure a high-energy, healthy meal:
Lots of fluids
Familiar foods that you know you can tolerate – Pre-workout meals are not the time to experiment with food
Moderate protein and carbohydrates
Avoid fried foods, junk foods, and soda
The real question many people have is whether or not protein is needed post workout. We hear a lot about the benefits of having a protein shake or bar immediately after intensive exercise. It is absolutely a good idea to take in some lean protein post workout because it helps with the growth and recovery of the muscles. Rather than a shake or a bar, it is healthier to have natural proteins. The more, the better, with 10 to 20 grammes being the ideal amount of post workout protein.
In essence, you have a number of options to choose from when deciding what to eat before and after a workout. The important thing to remember is carbohydrates and protein before, and protein after. Try to aim for complex carbohydrates and lean protein.