Believe it or not, food is your friend and when it comes to working out, it may very well be the best friend you have. Your body requires energy to perform at its peak. Energy comes in the form of calories and calories come in the form of food. Therefore, you should think of food as fuel - a necessary source of energy which will allow you to maximize your efforts and power through your exercise routine. However, there is a small catch.
While a big slice of chocolate cake may ring in high on the caloric scale, providing an immediate surge of energy in the form of a massive "sugar rush" or a rise in glucose levels, the inevitable result will be fatigue. When glucose levels increase too quickly, insulin begins to rapidly secrete throughout the body. The glucose, in turn, is consumed by the body's tissues and depleted from the blood - a process more commonly referred to as a "sugar crash". Calorie consumption, while important, is not the answer. The key to eating for exercise is consuming the right foods at the right time.
What to Eat Before A Workout:
A pre-workout meal is required to provide your body with - you guessed it - energy! It should consist of both simple and complex carbs. This will allow for an even, sustainable release of energy for the duration of your routine. Avoid foods that are high in fat (heart healthy fats like nuts and avocados are acceptable) and fiber.
Try: Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, trail mix, or nut butter
What to Eat During A Workout:
Unless you are mid marathon, triathlon or something else requiring a great deal of stamina over an extended period of time, eating during a workout is unnecessary. Hydration however, is of upmost importance. Water is the ultimate source of hydration and the perfect beverage choice for the average, 60 minute workout. If you are planning to exercise for more than an hour or are doing so in exceedingly hot or humid conditions, you will need to replenish your body's energy source. A low sugar sports drink will provide you with carbohydrates and sodium in addition to hydration.
What to Eat After A Workout:
Post workout your muscles require protein for recovery and growth. No need to go overboard - a meal containing 10 to 20 grams of protein will provide your muscles with all the amino acids they need!
Try: 8 Ounces of Low-Fat Chocolate Milk