Why do we eat? Energy is the answer. Food fuel’s our body and therefore it is crucial to take in the right nutrients before and after a workout to maintain optimal performance and recovery.
Don’t cut the carbs
Many diets tell us to cut the carbs. It is really important to know what you’re eating or not eating and why. Carbs are a quick source of immediate energy used as fuel during your workout. There are two types of carbs:
E.g. White bread, pasta, pop, and candy, do not contain many additional nutrients but are easier to digest. During exercise, they may give you a quick energy boost but cause your body to “crash” if you do not eat a sufficient amount. Post-workout, eating a sufficient amount of carbs will replenish your body’s glycogen stores to ensure proper recovery.
E.g. whole grains, brown rice, and oats, can often provide nutrients ( eg fibre, vitamins, and minerals) but tend to take longer to digest. It is important to give your body enough time to process these foods to convert into energy before exercise.
Protein helps build and repair muscles. During a workout, your muscle proteins are being actively broken down to use as an energy source after its glycogen stores start to run low. Foods high in protein include meat, fish, soy, and lentils. It is important to have some protein post-workout because it will help speed up the process in which your body repairs itself. However, it is a common myth that a high-protein diet leads to muscle growth when only strength training will do that. Ingesting too much protein can cause problems such as dehydration, calcium loss, strain on the liver and converts into fat.
Traditionally, there has been a stigma against fat where many believed eating high amounts of fatty food will lead to weight gain and other health problems. While it is true that excessive levels of trans fat and LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad cholesterol”) is correlated with cardiovascular disease, fat is actually the most effective energy source as it provides the most amount of energy per gram compared to carbs and proteins. As well, foods high in HDL cholesterol (aka the “good cholesterol”) promotes good cardiovascular health. Your body also needs essential fatty acids to aid in metabolism. Choose foods that are high in healthy fats such as avocados, salmon, and nuts.
Water is essential for exercise. Ensuring you stay properly hydrated is important for optimal performance, as you can lose as much as several liters of sweat during vigorous physical activity. It is recommended to drink about 2 cups of water before a workout so that your body is properly hydrated. During and after exercise, continue to sip on water, taking breaks if necessary. If you are doing more of an intense workout where you sweat a lot, an energy drink can help replenish lost electrolytes.
If you have any questions regarding your nutrition you can call #811 and speak with a registered dietitian who can give you some specific advice.