The other 23 hours

What you do before and after your workout is at least as important as the exercise itself. Honest!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You’ve just finished a gruelling and yet thoroughly satisfying workout. Whether it was a bike ride, Pilates class or Olympic swimming medley – you gave it 100% and did your stretches to finish. (You did do your stretches, didn’t you?)

Now you’re done! All fitness stuff is taken care of until the next session, right?

Not so fast.

How you look after yourself between workouts plays a major part in how effective your exercise is.

Eat often and eat smart.

Yes – often. This is good news people!

Keep your energy levels stocked up with well-timed and nutritious  snacks (when possible) between your major 3 meals.

Our body stores energy in the liver and muscles as glycogen – which is the human form of glucose (or sugar). By sticking to a regular and healthy eating routine you can maintain your glycogen levels.

This doesn’t just pay off big time when your train but in day to day life you’ll be consistently sharp and productive.

Back to your exercise.

You should be aiming to consume some form of protein and carbs before and after each workout.

Pre-workout

Not surprisingly, what you put in your mouth before you exercise plays a large part in how well you’ll perform. It’s also crucial in how well your muscles respond to and recover from the exercise.

Many of us will just “eat something for energy” before running out the door.

However with a bit of thought and not much preparation you can really maximize your time in the gym / wherever.

Try to include some carbohydrates and protein before you work out. Most of us realize the value in carbs for energy but we often overlook the importance of protein beforehand.

Photo by LYFE Fuel on Unsplash

By including protein in your pre-workout snack you’ll enjoy:

  • faster muscle growth
  • improved muscle recovery time
  • better strength and lean muscle mass

Protein delivers much-welcomed amino acids to our bodies which are used to rebuild damage done to muscles after vigorous exercise.

These delightful little amino acids aren’t satisfied with just repairing our muscles. The little champions then go about stimulating lean muscle growth.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Result!

Combine the protein with carbs for energy. You can go for “complex” carbohydrates here because they take longer to break down and can be relied on to provide you with enough energy throughout your workout.

Think rice, pasta, any kind of potato. Get to love your potatoes.

Some great pre-workout snack ideas:

  • bowl of rice with some veggies and chicken/fish/canned tuna
  • scrambled eggs with toast, bacon and avocado (a personal favorite)
  • oatmeal or sweet potato with a protein drink (or humble milk) plus some fruit.
Photo by Akemy Mory on Unsplash

You get the idea – whatever works for you. As for when to eat depends on the individual. Anywhere from 2 hours to 20 minutes prior to exercise will suit most people. If you find yourself lacking energy or strength in your workout then just bump up your meal time closer to the workout.

Post-workout

Once we’ve exercised we have to replace the used glycogen stores and eating carbs is how we do it.

Your body also needs the protein goodness to start repairing and rebuilding its muscle cells, plus…new lean muscle!

Very nice.

The amount of energy used depends on the exercise but any “simple carb” will do. Simple carbs refer to carbohydrates that can be quickly broken down into our energy systems.

Granted, a frosty cold beer may be mighty tempting and alcohol is a form of energy but try to get the carbs/protein into you first.

Energy bars, some fruit with a glass of milk / yoghurt / protein drink or even the good old-fashioned toast and peanut butter all work well.

Ah, exercise and refueling done.

Time to spoil yourself.

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