How to Fuel Your Body Before, During, & After Workouts
It is commonly said that working out is one-third training, one-third sleep, and one-third nutrition. And while this is widely accepted among the training community, casual trainees often fail to address the second two adequately. So, to help you bring your workout to the next level, we will use this article to explain how to fuel your body before, during, and after workouts.
Properly fuel your body before, during, and after workouts
Fueling your body simply means giving it enough energy to sustain itself during the workout. As you can imagine, working out can require a tremendous amount of energy. Depending on the intensity and the duration, your workout can burn quite a lot of calories. Therefore, you must eat and drink the right amount for a decent workout.
Unfortunately for casual trainees, eating the right foods before, during, and after a workout can be counterintuitive. Some foods and drinks we consume to boost ourselves (like coffee, sugar, and fats). While these are perfectly fine for everyday use, they are suited for working out. So, let's outline the basics of how you should approach nutrition.
Eating and drinking before a workout is all about preparing your body for it. As you can imagine, you can hardly expect a decent workout if you eat a big meal before it. Not only will you feel bloated and slow, but you might even throw up. Therefore, the main idea behind your pre-workout meal is to be small and engaging.
Here you are looking for healthy carbohydrates. Fruits, whole grain bread, yogurt, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables. These are all great options for a pre-workout meal. But what you don't want is to eat all of them. The simpler your meal is, the quicker and easier it will be to digest. Limiting yourself to three unprocessed ingredients for your pre-workout meal is a good rule of thumb. For instance, a piece of whole-grain bread, some peanut butter, and some bananas. A filling, energizing meal that will see you tackle your workout like a pro. You should eat at least one hour before a workout, even with simple meals. That way, your body will have enough time to digest everything.
We suggest drinking only water unless you are doing a multi-hour workout session. The reason for this is that working out activates our sympathetic nervous system. That is a system of nerves that activates our muscles and prepares us for the flight-or-fight response. While this system activates various hormones and rushes blood to our muscles, it also cuts off the blood supply to our stomach. That means that while we are working out, our gut isn't able to digest properly. This usually leads people becoming sick and nauseus during a workout, especially if they've had a big meal before.
So, does this mean you shouldn't put anything in your stomach during your workout? Well, no. The safest course of action is only to drink water in small sips. After all, working out will dehydrate your body. So, you need to drink water to keep yourself hydrated. You want to do so in small sips to not overburden your stomach with water, which can also cause you to throw up.
You should get food if your workout is particularly long (2+ hours). By that time, the effects of the sympathetic nervous system will lessen, and your stomach will be able to digest food. Here the best food is a fruit or some other simple sugars. Again, the simpler the food is, the easier it will be to digest.
A common misconception is that you should only take protein after your workout. Don't get us wrong. Proteins are essential for the recovery period. The only way to feed your muscles is through protein. But, while your meal should be high-protein, it shouldn't be only protein. Meat, dairy, and vegetables are great ways to feed tired muscles. Depending on the time of day, you can incorporate some carbohydrates for extra energy. But it should be less than you take before working out. Your parasympathetic nervous system will kick in by this time, making digestion much more effortless. But it will make you sleepy. So, if you need to stay active, get some simple sugars into you.
As you might have noticed, we've stayed clear from energy bars, protein shakes, and various sports drinks. While these can be beneficial to fuel your body before, during, and after workouts, we advise you first to learn how to manage everyday foods. All these supplements can be beneficial. But they are not a substitute for healthy eating. Simple foods are more than enough for you to have a healthy, strong, fit body. Learning how to cook and when to eat simple foods is critical to having a healthy life. That is why nutrition is especially important for addiction and healthy mental recovery. So, if anyone tells you you shouldn't worry about cooking and simply rely on workout-oriented products, know that they are trying to sell you something.
Final thoughts about nutrition
One last thing we will mention is that you shouldn't consider your body as a machine. Once we approach working out, we often see our bodies and mechanical things that we need to push and maintain. The mere fact that we are talking about how to fuel your body before, during, and after workouts should give you a hint at how often we view ourselves as machines. Well, don't. You are a breathing, feeling, caring creature. And besides fueling your body, food regulates hormones, impacts our emotions, and maintains our health. It also provides a sense of comfort and invokes memories. So, give yourself a break and don't be too strict. Instead, enjoy your food and learn how to make it healthy and energizing.