Pre and Post Workout Nutrition For Optimal Health - Good Food Made Simple

Pre and Post Workout Nutrition For Optimal Health

Mar 06, 2023
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As the New Year rolls in there is one thing that is sure to happen: the gym gets SO much busier! As a year-round gym-goer myself, rather than seeing the extra foot traffic and machine usage as a nuisance I see it in a positive light. I love that so many people are thinking about their physical health and making time for a sweat session! 

Whether you’re adding a new fitness routine in as part of your New Year’s resolution or if you’re continuing your usual routine it’s important to make sure your nutrition is being considered, too.  Making sure you are adequately fueling your body will help you to achieve your fitness goals in a healthy and safe way. Here are three key nutrition tips to fuel your active lifestyle!

  1. Pre-Workout Fuel: Before working out it is important to give your body the energy to actually do the workout. This is best done by focusing on giving your body carbohydrates, while also adding in little protein. The carbohydrates are most important for giving you energy and the protein will allow your muscles to begin repairing. You might try toast and peanut butter, cereal and milk, oatmeal, or a yogurt cup.
  2. PostWorkout Fuel: Just as it’s important to give your body proper nutrition before you workout, it’s just as important to give it the energy it needs to recover. Your muscles need protein to help them repair, and when they’re given adequate nutrition after exercise they will repair even stronger than they were! Our muscles also deplete their energy stores during exercise, which will need to be replaced. After a workout make sure to focus on consuming protein to really help those muscles repair while adding in some carbohydrates to restore your energy. Some great options are chocolate milk, greek yogurt and granola, a burrito, or a turkey sandwich.
  3. Hydration: Giving yourself enough water is something that is often forgotten. However, it’s so important when you’re physically active! Water is needed for our bodies to produce sweat, which helps to keep us cool and prevent overheating during workouts. Not consuming enough water can also lead to muscle fatigue and cramping, not ideal during a workout! It’s a good idea to keep a water bottle on you to sip on before, during and after exercise.

Now, you may also be wondering what the best strategy is for nutrition in order to reach your fitness goals. There are so many out there like calorie counting, macro counting, sticking to a paleo diet, etc. So, what should you do? My advice, and personal experience is none of the above. I highly recommend adapting an intuitive eating approach to nutrition.

When you stick to strict food rules, such as “X” number of calories a day, only allowing yourself so much of each macro, or avoiding food groups you can set you up for developing a disordered eating pattern, and possibly lead to an eating disorder. As someone who has personally recovered from a  6 -year struggle with an eating disorder, it has become my passion to help others avoid this.

What is intuitive eating? To put it simply, intuitive eating is normal eating. It’s about learning to understand which foods make your body feel it’s best, in turn allowing it to function optimally and help you achieve your fitness goals. Intuitive eating is not a diet, it is a sustainable way of eating. This last part is key. Intuitive eating is NOT a diet.  Research has consistently shown that 95% of diets don’t work and that the end result is usually MORE weight gain! Additionally, diets cause stress, anxiety, and frustration. And I don’t know about you, but that is not something I need more of in my life! I’m guessing you don’t either.

So, with intuitive eating, you may be thinking you’ll simply eat cookies and cake all the time. Well, this isn’t exactly true. At first, you may consume higher amounts of these foods, which is necessary for your body to realize that these foods are not restricted, they are not bad, and they can have them whenever they want. Once your body realizes this there is less of a desire for these foods because they’re no longer seen as “off limits”, which only makes us want them even more. Additionally, you’ll begin to realize which foods fuel your body optimally, such as a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and, for many, dairy. By learning to eat intuitively you’ll also find your “set point weight”. This is the weight that your body wants to be and can maintain effortlessly, without thought.

After learning to become an intuitive eater I can personally say that I am in the best shape of my life. By learning to listen to my body I have been able to gain more muscle and strength that I ever was able to when I followed food rules and restrictions. No two bodies are the same and no one can possible know what your body needs besides YOU. That is why it is so important to become in-tune with your body and learn to listen to what it is telling you it needs. Our bodies are pretty smart about what they need, but we have to listen to them in order to get that information.

Another benefit from becoming an intuitive eater is the mental space you’ll gain. Counting calories or macros or constantly thinking about what foods you can and cannot eat takes SO much energy! When you become and intuitive eater you will spend less time thinking about food and spend more time and energy living! For instance, when you’re in your fitness class or lifting weights you can focus on the workout you are doing rather than being consumed with food thoughts. This will actually allow you to have a better workout since you’ll be able to focus on the here-and-now!

So, as we start the New Year, and likely new fitness routines, let’s focus on fueling our body optimally without food rules and restrictions! You’ll find yourself much more healthy and happy!

Article courtesy of: Colleen Christensen, R.D.

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