What you eat plays a significant role in helping you reach those health goals, especially when it comes to fitness and working out. Healthy food provides your body with the fuel it needs to help you through those workout sessions. What you eat after your workout is also just as important. Here are the top 5 things you should be doing nutrition-wise to make sure you are optimizing your workout and blowing past your fitness goals.
Tip #1: Fuel your Workout Properly
Carbohydrates are not the evil macronutrients that everyone makes them out to be. In fact, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred energy source and they generate the most ATP (energy source for your cells) per volume of oxygen than any other macronutrient. Your body also stores a very limited amount of carbohydrates. Eating carbs before you workout not only helps fuel your muscles and cells to work hard, but it allows your body to utilize energy more efficiently. The American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend eating 1-4 grams per kg of carbohydrates 1-4 hours before working out. The closer to your workout, the less volume of food you should eat to avoid GI discomfort.
Tip #2: Short Training Sessions do NOT need Specialized Drinks or Healthy Food
Sports nutrition companies do a fantastic job at convincing you to drink calories during workouts. When it comes to the average person and workout, it’s just not needed. Although the body does have a limited supply of carbohydrates, there is enough stored to get us through our routine training sessions. Workouts under 75 minutes do not need additional carbohydrates to replace what is burned.
Tip #3: Protein is Essential for Recovery
Protein is the key macronutrient to help support our muscles after a tough workout. When you workout, especially if strength training is included, you are creating tiny micro-tears in your muscles. These tears help your muscles grow stronger after they repair themselves. But, in order to ensure that your muscles recover for your next workout, it’s super important to eat protein after a workout. After a tough workout, your muscles are more sensitive to protein for muscle synthesis within 24 hours of finishing exercise. How much is enough? It is different for everyone. A good starting point is around 15-20 grams of protein.
Tip #4: Don’t Skimp on Fats
While carbohydrates provide energy, so do fats. Doing aerobic exercise burns both carbohydrates and fats. In fact, during an endurance or prolonged workout, your body will utilize fat as it’s main source. Why? Because we store more fats than carbohydrates, and at longer, lower intensities, your body will need to convert fat to energy in order to sustain your workout. Fats also provide several great benefits that can help athletes. First, omega 3 fatty acids are fantastic anti-inflammatory agents that can help reduce inflammation after a tough workout. Second, hormones like testosterone, the main hormone that supports muscle growth, is made from fats. If there’s not enough fat in your diet, you will have sub-optimal hormone production.
Tip #5: Listen to Your Body when it Comes to Fueling
Our body’s needs change on a daily basis. Some days you may be hungrier than others, and that’s okay. That is why engaging in calorie or macronutrient counting is not always the best idea. First of all, it is really hard to know exactly what your calorie needs are each day. Our active minutes and exercise intensity is never consistent. Second, not all individuals metabolize macronutrients at the same rate. Aiming for a macronutrient target that is very general may not actually be the best target for you specifically. Lastly, counting calories and macronutrients is mentally exhausting and can lead to disordered eating patterns. Instead, practice listening to your hunger cues. Eat when your body feels like it needs fuel, and stop eating when you are full. Aim to eat a balanced diet, with protein spread throughout the day. Be sure to include fiber and healthy fats to help you stay satisfied.
Following these 5 nutrition guidelines can help you achieve those 2023 fitness goals. If you need more guidance on how to use nutrition to boost your health or athletic milestones, contact Annie at The Village Doctor for more details.
Ready to supercharge your workout with healthy food? Contact The Village Doctor at (650) 851-4747 to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards achieving your fitness goals!”
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Annie Rubin, Registered Dietician, March 3, 2023.