Exercise is King, Nutrition is Queen. Put them together and you have a kingdom. For you to climb to the zenith of fitness, you need to get that combination of exercise and nutrition spot on!
Exercising is not only about a slimmer waistline or ripped physique, but also about a lowered risk of lifestyle diseases and improved mood and energy levels. And to ensure that you are gaining maximum benefits from that grueling gym session, it is important to fuel your fitness with proper nutrition. Similar to how a car requires fuel to run efficiently, our body requires fuel in the form of food to optimize our workouts.
Here are some pre-workout meals that should be eaten ideally 30-45 minutes before your exercise session:
- Fruit, sweet potato or a slice of whole-grain bread before a cardio session / swim / run
These carb-rich foods are easily broken down into glucose, giving you instant energy for a super-awesome workout. If you’re strapped for glucose, fatigue, dizziness and the desire to leave the workout session mid-way are sure to set in.
- Oats porridge or an open paneer sandwich
In addition to carbs, it’s a good idea to consume some protein before weight training sessions. Lifting weights creates wear and tear in our muscle fibres and eating proteins before workouts, minimizes it. A dairy product prior to workout sessions is recommended because they contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), which increases muscle protein synthesis and decreases protein breakdown during and after workout.
A post-workout meal should ideally be eaten within 30 minutes, to replenish the glycogen that has been depleted during a power-packed exercise session. However, if that is not possible, eat a small snack within 20 minutes followed by a proper meal within 2 hours.
And the good news is that since the body is low on energy, post-cardio is an appropriate time to have a cheat meal since our body is in dire need for high-GI carbs which it will not store as fat. So, bring on the chocolate milk, slice cake, banana/chikoo smoothie, aloo toast or aamras and relish them guilt-free – Just don’t go overboard with the portion size 😉
After an exhausting weight training session, proteins are super crucial for a speedy muscle recovery. While eggs are your best bet, for vegetarians, tofu, soy or paneer can do the trick. It is important to eat your carbohydrates with proteins because without carbohydrates, proteins will be utilized for replenishing the glycogen stores instead of building muscles. Post an intensive strength training session, our muscles develop high insulin sensitivity, allowing absorption of nutrients into our muscle cells and resulting in faster recovery.
Remember, your muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed. Besides ensuring the powerful duo of exercise and food, sleep is the third important pillar for optimum health. During sleep, the pituitary gland releases the growth hormone which stimulates tissue growth and muscle repair. A sleep debt increases the levels of the stress hormone – cortisol which causes muscle loss and a higher incidence of injuries. Sleep deprivation decreases production of glycogen stores which supply energy during your exercise sessions. Additionally, lack of sleep increases the levels of ghrelin hormone that increase your appetite and lowers the leptin hormone levels which signal satiety which throws all your efforts down the drain. Thus, a proper 6-8 hours’ sound sleep is crucial for adequate muscle recovery and a fitter you.
Some important tips for getting your workout meals right:
- Since exercise requires good energy levels, never exercise on an empty stomach, especially if you exercise in the morning.
- During workouts, to ensure adequate hydration stay away from sugar-laden sports drinks. Our good old diluted nimbu paani with little sugar and black or rock salt is more than enough to take care of your hydration.
- As fats take the longest to digest, the pre-workout meal should be low in fat, so stay away from fried food or fatty meats.
- Remember, it is easy to over-eat post an exercise session and end up consuming more calories than you burned. A post workout meal should not exceed 500 calories which is equivalent to two rotis, a serving of dal, vegetable and curd each.
- Steer away from energy drinks, bars, smoothies and juices at the gym juice bar.
- Your pre-workout meal should not exceed beyond 250 calories. If you are working out 2-3 hours post breakfast or lunch, there is no need for a pre-workout meal. If the gap exceeds beyond 4 hours, do not forget to grab a pre-workout snack.
- Nutrition should always come from the plate and not a pill; hence, avoid falling into the trap of supplements.
- For those who drink protein shakes, remember the pre-workout shake must be consumed with milk whereas the post-workout shake must be mixed with water.
A power-packed and rewarding exercise session awaits you. Good luck 😊
Vishruta is a nutritionist by profession and a writer by heart. Content writing and menu planning have become her passions over the past few years. Love food, love life — is her mantra.