The importance of healthy meals before and after a workout becomes more apparent once you get into a good fitness routine. Keeping your body fueled and nourished will help your body prepare and recover from any type of workout. What foods should you be eating though, and which nutrients does your body need the most? Here are 5 essential components your body requires to function optimally before and after workouts:
There’s a reason runners talk about eating pasta or ‘carb loading’ the night before a big run. Because carbs are essential to muscle function! Complex carbohydrates are converted into glucose and rapidly used up as fuel by our muscles. Depending on the duration and intensity of your workout, your carbohydrate requirements are going to vary. As you work out, your glucose stores become depleted and your body begins to be used up, and your energy level drops. Therefore ensuring you have ample glucose stored in your body to sustain energy throughout your workout and improve overall performance.
Quite a bit of research has shown that consuming protein before or after a workout can boost performance and endurance while decreasing recovery time (protein shake anyone?). Protein is broken down into essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of our muscles, bones, and tissues. When we exercise, our muscle tissues are tearing and burning fuel for energy that comes from glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids. Ingesting healthy protein before and after workouts allows you to preserve muscle mass, reduce soreness and recovery time, and improve strength and physical performance.
Healthy fats are essential for physical and mental health, and they play a major role in effective fitness routines. Carbs are quickly digested to prove a rapid source of energy while fats are broken down and stored in cells at a lower rate. Having stored fat (adipose tissue) in our body is particularly helpful for longer mid-intensity workouts. Whereas carbs are a great energy source for quick, high-intensity workouts. One study showed that a diet with healthy fats supported endurance for runners. Not sure where to get sources of ‘good fats’? Check out a list here.
Staying hydrated is a priority for any active lifestyle. Water transports nutrients to your organs and muscles while removing waste and toxins. It is especially important to stay hydrated before and after a workout. As your body will lose substantial water through perspiration and heavy breathing. Dehydration after workouts is common and can lead to fatigue, muscle soreness, cramps, and exhaustion. Don’t forget your water bottle during your next workout!
Like water, soluble fiberer removes toxins and waste during muscle production and is essential for healthy digestion and immunity. Insoluble fiber aids in keeping hunger pangs away and supporting healthy weight maintenance. A high fiber diet aids in weight loss, lowers cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of developing diseases. Make sure to always include fiber-rich fruit, vegetables, and whole grain foods to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Looking to learn more about reaching optimal health? Check out our article Foods for a Healthy Thyroid.