We are all aware of the importance of diet for workouts and weight loss efforts individually, but what about when we combine them?
This subject often causes confusion for many weight-loss hopefuls.
Even though dieting, for instance, often involves reducing your carbohydrate intake, carbohydrates are still crucial to give you the energy to exercise at your best. Therefore, it is key to know how many carbohydrates to have and when to consume them to get the right balance in addition to several other nutrients.
As weight loss specialists here at Plato Weight Management who have helped hundreds of clients achieve their ideal body weight over the years, we have seen how beneficial intaking adequate nutrition before and after exercise is towards successful weight management long-term.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about:
- Pre-workout nutrition
- Post-workout nutrition
So first things first, how long before your workout should you eat?
Well, in order for your body to get enough of the nutrients and energy from food in time for you to make it through your workout optimally, I recommend eating around 1 hour before your workout.
So, what should you intake prior to a workout session?
Well, three things are essential:
And of these, we will begin with healthy carbs!
Now, notice the way I said healthy carbs and not just carbs. Well, what I mean by this is that you need carbohydrate-rich foods which are low in fat and low to moderate in protein.
An example of healthy carbs would be brown rice, which is high in fibre as it increases your feelings of being full.
Additionally, bananas give you quick energy, help prevent muscle cramping during your workout, and help reduce bloating due to their impact on water retention and gas build-up within your body.
Sweet potatoes also increase your feelings of being full and lower insulin resistance, limiting calories being converted to fat.
Further, broccoli is great as it is rich in vitamin C, limiting the impact that stressful situations have on your body because it reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. At the same time, broccoli increases testosterone which helps fight off body fat storage.
And for the ladies, you do actually have testosterone levels, just a lot lower than levels that men would have.
To read our blog about everything you need to know about Crohn’s disease, please follow the link here.
Moreover, why do you need carbohydrates before exercise?
You need carbs as you need to make sure we have enough muscle glycogen in your body for exercise.
And what is muscle glycogen?
Carbohydrate-rich foods that you eat are broken down to glucose in your body which is the way you give the cells within your body the energy to function.
When your cells receive enough glucose to work optimally, some of the glucose is turned into glycogen to be used as energy at a later period.
The two main functions of muscle glycogen are that it is your primary fuel source. It’s also important because low glycogen levels decrease your ability to gain strength and decrease your ability to gain muscle.
Now, how much carbohydrates should you have?
Well, you should aim to have about 50g of carbs an hour before your workout. However, for the full amounts of carbs per day, I recommend that you have between 2-3 g of healthy carbs per pound of bodyweight on cardio days, obviously because carbs give you energy which you need more of on your cardio days.
And then, on the other hand, on your rest days, when you need less energy, I recommend that you have between 0.5 – 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
Secondly, you will need to hydrate with water.
Guys, in one hour of exercise, your body can lose one-quarter of its level of water. This is relevant because if you lose just 2% of your body weight in fluid, it can actually decrease performance by as much as 25%. So by staying hydrated, it helps to prevent a decline in performance, strength and coordination.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a loss of coordination, it will further regress a decline in your performance and also increase your risk of injury. So this is just something to be aware of.
Now the second thing that water helps with is regulating your body temperature. So you’ll be aware that when you’re exercising, your body warms up, so to cool down, you sweat, but if your hydration levels are too low, that means that you could have a lack of sweat with the potential to cause you to overheat, So this is something to also keep in mind.
Furthermore, hydrating with water helps with other bodily functions, such as the heart, as the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood around the body if you’re sufficiently hydrated.
Also, things like oxygen and nutrients can be transported more efficiently to your muscles that you’re working on during your workout.
And finally, water is a vital part of many chemical reactions within the body. If your water intake is too low, then the chemical reactions will slow down, which will cause tissues to heal slower and make recovery longer also.
So how much water should you have?
Well, I recommend having eight ounces before your work out, eight ounces during your workout (every 15 minutes) and then eight ounces after, preferably within a 30-minute timeframe. And just for my fellow Europeans =), eight ounces is 250 mls.
And lastly, pre-gym, you of course want to avoid saturated fats.
Saturated fats indeed contain a lot of carbs, so again that means more energy, so you might think “hey, that’s good right?”.
Well, the problem with this guys is that when the extra energy comes from saturated fat, the fat actually takes longer to digest, so any that you consume pre-workout will not be harvested to leave your body fast enough to provide energy for your workout. Therefore, this is the first problem, it digests slowly.
Now the second problem is that saturated fat also creates feelings of sluggishness that will not be helpful with exercising, and take it from me, I found out the hard way.
To read our blog explaining why monitoring your heart rate is important, please follow the link here.
So then what about post-workout?
Well, in addition to more water, as mentioned earlier, you want your post-workout meal within around 45 minutes after your workout. An important component for any post-workout meal is protein.
This is because consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild broken down muscle fibres from exercise. Aim for between 20-40g of protein.
Now, remember earlier how we talked about the need for muscle glycogen stores in your muscles as fuel for exercise? Well, after exercise, your muscles are depleted of those glycogen stores, so you guessed it, the third thing you should have is carbs, as these will replenish the glycogen stores.
As a rule of thumb, for every gram of protein you have, have three grams of carbohydrates.
Furthermore, not only do you lose water through sweat, but also electrolytes. Electrolytes are like motor oil in your car. They don’t make the engine run but are absolutely crucial to keep everything running smoothly.
Thus an insufficient amount of electrolytes in your muscles can result in muscle cramps and inadequate functioning of bodily systems such as the digestive system, nervous system, cardiac system and of course, the muscular system.
Examples of foods rich in electrolytes would be bananas, avocados, raisins, beans, potatoes and spinach.
To read our blog discussing everything you need to know about The Vegan Diet, please follow the link here.
In conclusion, in order to effectively workout while dieting, you need to be consuming adequate amounts of healthy carbs and water while avoiding saturated fats approximately one hour before you exercise.
Additionally, post-gym, you need to consume an appropriate amount of protein, healthy carbs, water and electrolytes.
If you are interested in undertaking one of our evidence-based and results-backed Plato Weight Management programs, please make sure to check what program may be suitable for you at this link or contact us here!
You can find out what some of our previous clients had to say about the program on our success stories page!