You’ve probably heard the advice that diet and exercise together will help you get the best results for your health. It’s true! Either alone can do a lot of good, but when combined, it gives your body all the support it needs to operate at its maximum capacity. However, many people don’t know how to get their diet and exercise in sync.
In this article, we’ll look at a few key diet changes you can make and some foods you can include in your exercise routine to ensure you get the most out of every workout.
Before You Work Out
There are different schools of thought on what’s best for your body before you exercise, but scientists have narrowed down the answer to a few data-backed suggestions: carbs, protein and fat. These three types of nutrients will give your body what it needs to succeed as you exercise.
Carbs are an important part of your pre workout nutrition because they give your body energy to perform tasks such as running or lifting weights. Your muscles will turn those carbs into glucose and use that for energy. Keep in mind the number of carbs you need will depend on the intensity and length of your workout.
Fat works similarly to carbs in that it’s a backup reserve fuel for your muscles. When they run out of carbohydrates, they’ll start turning fat into glucose instead. Lastly, protein is a popular recommendation because it’s required for your muscles to build themselves up and become stronger.
During Your Workout
The most important thing during your workouts is to drink water. No matter what exercise you’re doing or for how long, your body will need to stay hydrated throughout. Keep a bottle of water with you when you work out so you can take a few sips between sets or periodically as you run or walk.
Depending on what level of athlete you are, you might find you need snacks during your workouts too. This typically only applies to people exercising for longer than one hour. In these situations, you’ll likely need to add fuel to your body every 30 minutes or so.
Look for light sources of carbs with natural sugars and low fat content, such as fruit or yogurt. Stay away from dense, fatty options like nut butter and granola bars, which might sit in your stomach and slow you down.
After You Workout
Similar to your before-workout snack, your post-workout meal should lean heavily on carbohydrates and protein. Your body likely burned off all your stores of these two nutrients during your exercise, so it’s time to refuel your tank. Things like hamburgers, steak and potatoes and other heavier meals will often seem most appetizing for this reason.
More important than what you eat after you exercise, however, is often when you eat. You might notice that if you try to eat a meal immediately after your workout it makes you feel sick or too full. That’s because your body is still filled with adrenaline and cortisol, which can slow your digestion significantly.
Allow yourself some time to come down from your workout high before eating. (Unless you feel ravenous as soon as you’re done, in which case feel free to eat.) Most people find that waiting 30-60 minutes after their exercise is enough time for their body to return to rest and be ready to digest a delicious meal.
This is usually perfect because unless you prepped food before your workout, it will take you about as long to fix a meal anyway. So one solution is to plan to fix your food when you get back home and then eat.
Fueling your body with the right nutrients at the right time is a key step in reaching your health and fitness goals. Use these tips to plan your meals and snacks before, during and after your workouts so you can start seeing better results.