One of my clients recently asked me what and when she should been eating before our sessions to keep her from feeling exhausted and/or nauseous. So hear I am, singing the praise of carbs carbs and more carbs. You cannot efficiently burn fat and build muscle without adequate carbohydrate intake.
One of my favorite quotes actually came from my NASM text book. I memorized it when studying but find myself using it as a reminder in my own nutrition choices. It goes like this: “Fat burns in a carbohydrate flame”
Basically, maximal fat will not be utilized without enough carbohydrate. Carbohydrates serve as our most vital source of energy for all bodily functions and muscular endurance. This is because our bodies depend on muscle glycogen during exercise. But enough with the scientific blabber, what you need to know is that without sufficient glycogen stores available, you may hit a wall during your workout, burn less fat and build less muscle. As an athlete, you want to save your protein for building muscle, rather than use it for energy.
2-4 hours prior to working out, you want to consume a carbohydrate rich meal with some protein as well. A common carbohydrate to protein ratio is 2:1 when exercising for an hour or less. If you are an endurance athlete you can up your carbohydrates to a 3:1 ratio. If you workout in the mornings, just get something in your system that will cause little distress on your belly and will digest easily. Read this short article highlighting the importance of pre and post workout nutrition from Equinox’s blog.
In order to recover and replenish those glycogen stores after a workout you need to eat at minimum a small snack within 30 minutes of completion. If you are able to consume a full meal within 30 minutes of working out, you can do so with a carbohydrate and protein rich meal.
Now this does not mean you should eat pasta for every meal. Sometimes we forget that fruits and vegetables are also carbohydrates. Also stick to whole grains like quinoa, brown rice or oats.
Here is what I suggest my clients consume before a heart thumping session to avoid early exhaustion:
- Banana or apple with nut butter ( I prefer Raw Unsalted Almond Butter)
- Steel cut oats with half a banana, some blueberries or raisins (get creative and use what you have)
- A hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit
- Whole wheat crackers with hummus (I love Mary’s Gone Crackers)
- Carrots and Hummus
- A bowl of quinoa (Ideas here: I’m dying to try the “bagel bowl”)
- Brown rice cake(s) with avocado (I need more than one, but I have a lot of body to fuel so keep your personal needs in mind)
- Baked Potato with salsa and a sprinkle of black beans (so good and such a great endurance carbohydrate)
- Baked Sweet Potato with a sprinkle of cinnamon and some ghee or coconut oil
Post Workout I usually grab a banana and a handful of nuts or make a protein shake if it is not meal time. If I am running around I also really like Zone’s Perfectly Simple line. You can find them at most large grocers and target too. They are not as pricey as some other brands on the market, and they are gluten free!
Most days I time my workouts to come before a balanced meal. If it’s breakfast time, try an egg and vegetable hash or a bowl of breakfast quinoa with Greek yogurt (which when combined is a complete protein). If you want some egg and vegetable ideas, check out my blog post Green Lunches. When it’s dinner time, have nutrient dense veggies, whole grains and proteins. I am not a big meat eater, so I combine foods to create whole proteins and incorporate eggs into meals. For example, rice and beans when combined create a whole protein and provide you with adequate carbohydrate replenishment! Above is my post workout breakfast from this morning, this is also a great pre-workout meal, especially for those long runs during spring training.
Just keep in mind I am not a nutritionist and everyone has slightly different needs depending on their body, exercise habits and dietary restrictions.