If you’re trying to get fit, it really helps to fuel your body with the right nutrients for muscle-building. If you thought that pre- and post-workout eating plans were only necessary for bodybuilders, think again. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate … which means that even casual exercisers will benefit from getting the biggest bang for their buck during a workout.
Your body goes through a few basic processes during exercise that are important to consider. Specifically, it burns glucose for energy, and also synthesizes proteins. This means that glucose (a type of carbohydrate) and protein are absolutely beneficial for fueling your workouts. We’ll break it down even further, though. Here’s what you should be eating before, during and after your workout.
Pre-Workout: Natural Caffeine, Low-GI Carbohydrates and (Maybe) a Little Protein
While consuming protein before a workout is good for you, it’s not the main thing your body is going to crave during this phase of your exercising. Most important for fueling your workout will be complex carbohydrates.
You’ll want to get some whole grains or fruits into your system that will sustain your energy for the duration of your workout. Keep it simple, though; if you eat something high-GI (that is, high on the glycemic index), such as sugary foods or refined carbohydrates, you’ll cause your body to spike its insulin production. This means that an hour or so later, you’ll experience an energy crash.
So, whole grains and fruits are the way to go. One to two hours before your workout, eat a healthy meal containing these healthy carbs. Even something small, like a healthy, non-sugary granola bar will do.
Now, the protein question. Whether or not to include protein pre-workout depends on your fitness goals. If you’re actively trying to lose weight, some fitness gurus recommend working out in a fasted state. Your body will then delve into your stored fat in order to get its energy. If that’s the case for you, you can enjoy the best of both worlds by consuming a small, healthy carbohydrate such as a banana prior to workout out. If you’re trying to build muscle, however, get some protein into your meal, too.
Finally, the last component to your pre-workout cocktail: caffeine. Caffeine consumed in large quantities can get your heart racing, but a little caffeine will give you an energy boost to help you work out to the max during your gym session. Drink a cup of coffee, or—if you’re trying to take your workouts to the next level—invest in a good pre-workout supplement that contains natural caffeine and other nutrients. Vega Sport makes a great pre-workout supplement that’s completely whole foods-based and 100 percent vegan.
During Your Workout: Water and BCAAs
During your workout, your body will be burning calories (a good thing) and also utilizing protein in order to accomplish all the physical exercises you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to start getting some proteins into your body at this point.
Make fitness gurus swear by sipping on BCAAs (branch-chain amino acids) during their workouts. This will help aid in protein synthesis, which will allow you to build muscle. However, you may want to skip on high-calorie protein powders at this stage. This is because you don’t want your body to use your blood for digestion—you want to use it to build muscle.
A low-calorie BCAA supplement can do the trick. Add it to some water, and you’ll also be covering the second crucial thing to consider during your workout: hydration.
As you sweat, your body will be losing water at a faster rate than normal. Replenish it by sipping on water throughout the entirety of your workout.
Post-Workout: Carbs and Protein
After a workout, your cells will have depleted their levels of glycogen (stored glucose), which means it’s important to replenish them. After a workout, enjoy a healthy source of carbohydrates. Fruits are ideal for this—your body will be craving sugar, and they’re a healthy, natural source of it.
And, most important of all, eat lots of protein immediately after your workout. Enjoy a healthy protein source such as free-range meat, eggs, high-protein vegan foods or even a protein powder. Once again, Vega Sport makes great protein powders that are completely plant-based and full of real-food ingredients.