Tuning up your pre- and post-workout diet
By Jamie O’Meara
The carb is key. With internal combustion engines, the carb (or carburetor) is the mechanism that mixes air and fuel to create drive. With human beings, the carb (or carbohydrate) is crucial to the creation of energy, which is why the food you eat before and after a workout is a big factor when it comes to personal drive.
Generally speaking, there is little argument with respect to the fundamentals of eating before and after exercise: carbohydrates are the way to go pre-workout, and a mix of protein and carbs post-exercise is ideal.
The optimal pre-training meal will have a balance of simple and complex carbs so as to release energy evenly during the period of the workout. Bread (preferably whole wheat), fruit, vegetables, cereals, and rice all fit the bill. Yogurt, bananas, and trail mix in moderation would be appropriate for folks considering a long run, while fruit smoothies, granola bars, oatmeal, and wholegrain bagels are good all-around options. Choose foods that are low in both fat and fibre. Ideally, allow two hours after eating before starting a workout, or eat lighter with a higher carbohydrate count (i.e., consider an energy drink) if limited time is a factor.
Post-exercise eating allows for more in the way of variety, but is far from a free-for-all. As mentioned, a pairing of lean protein (for the building and maintenance of muscle tissue) and nutrient-rich carbohydrates is the answer. Chicken is the invariable go-to meat, thanks to its workout-perfect low-fat balance of protein and carbohydrates. Tuna and salmon whole wheat sandwiches are also good options, especially when paired with a salad. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cooked vegetables in general are good options for sides. It’s important to eat within two hours of a workout to aid muscle recovery.
It goes without saying that whatever you choose to eat before and after you train, it’s absolutely essential that you stay hydrated during every phase of a workout. Water is essential for regulating body temperature, and proper hydration enhances the body’s performance during exercise. Approximately 500 ml of water two hours before working out, 375 ml every 30 minutes during the workout, and 500 ml (for every pound lost) afterward is the general rule of thumb. Best of all, and unlike just about everything else in life, you can drink as much water as you want.