Have you ever wondered whether your nutritional habits support your fitness routine and vice versa? Fitness and nutrition are closely linked. Whether you are looking to lose weight, add muscle, maintain weight, or just have optimal energy during and after a workout, nutrition is an important piece of the equation.
“How much you eat (and how much you workout) should be rooted in your own personal health goals,” said Morgan Rogers, MCHES, NASM-CPT, NASM-FNS, and Animal Flow instructor. Exercise and nutrition is a formula of calories consumed balanced with calories expended. Those trying to put on some weight will want to consume more calories than expended during a workout. Adding extra calories doesn’t mean an extra order of fries. It’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods to help bolster your overall health. “For many people looking to put on muscle, this could be as simple as drinking a post-workout shake or adding an extra serving of peanut butter to your smoothie,” suggests Rogers.
WHAT SHOULD I EAT AND WHEN?
Eating before a workout can help increase energy to sustain you throughout the activity. Eating a full meal two to three hours prior to a workout can provide sustenance without feeling full or cramping. If you need a little more, a small snack 30-45 minutes before starting exercise can help take off the edge. As a general rule, it’s best to limit fibrous foods and anything that will require a lot of work for your body to digest close to the start of a workout. A good choice would be easily digestible carbohydrates like a banana or dried fruit. “Not all fruits are created equal when it comes to easily digestible carbs. If it tastes sweeter and has a thinner skin or no skin, you’re probably good to go. Fruit that is less sweet, like an apple, will contain more complex chains of carbohydrates, which will be tougher to break down, not to mention a fiber-rich skin that will take some work on your tummy’s part to digest,” said Rogers.
After a workout, your body will be focusing on recovery, so it’s typically recommended to stick to easily digestible foods for the immediate post-workout snack, within 30 minutes afterwards. The post-workout recovery shake is a good option since the blender helps break down the food into smaller particles, making it easier on the digestive system. For post-workout snacks, aim to consume a mix of protein and carbohydrates. “Your body did a lot of heavy lifting during your workout; make things easier for it post-workout by choosing easily digestible foods. Smoothies and shakes are a great option,” said Rogers.
THE MAGIC FORMULA
“Many people think that muscles are made in the gym. False! Muscles are destroyed in the gym, but repaired and nurtured with a well-balanced diet,” said Rodgers. Rogers. You can work hard in the gym but not achieve the results you’re looking for if your nutrition game doesn’t match your fitness needs. Many people don’t eat enough for significant muscle gain. On the flip side, some people consume too much, preventing weight loss.
Your body can only store limited amounts of protein and carbohydrates but unlimited amounts of fat. Therefore, any macronutrient eaten in excess will be stored as fat. Undereating will prevent the body from building significant muscle mass. Overeating will add fat along with the muscle.
Track your nutrient intake along with your exercise for a few weeks.
Are you eating enough to support your exercise routine? Are you eating significantly more than needed for your activity level? Apps like MyFitnessPal, 8fit, MyPlate and Noom can help you easily track your meals and exercise. If you want a little more guidance or help getting started, consider scheduling a consultation with a dietitian or a fitness nutrition expert, available at many gyms. Enjoy the process and learn what your body needs to function at peak performance.