By JJ Virgin
Today I am going to address the right fuel as I get asked this all of the time and the misinformation in the marketplace is astounding! I want to make sure that you have the energy you need to rock an intense workout and then that you don’t undo that killer workout by telling your body to store fat immediately afterwards.
Should you eat before you workout?
Here’s the deal… you only have so much blood in your body so you want to ensure that you have optimal blood flow going to your working muscles during your workout rather than fueling digestion. But this doesn’t mean that you need to go into a workout hungry either, and in fact this could reduce your ability to generate the intensity that is key to boosting metabolism and enhancing fat burning.
Ideally, you should eat a small protein and carb snack 30-60 minutes prior to your workout OR eat a balanced meal 2-3 hours before your workout. An easy example of a pre-workout snack is a brown rice cake topped with sliced turkey or a PaleoBar.
What should you drink during your workout?
In my programs, my clients workout 20-60 minutes a day, 5-6 times a week. Ideally they are doing more intense, shorter workouts. With this type of workout you want to be well hydrated coming into it by drinking 8-12 glasses of pure spring water throughout the day (limit to 8 ounces with meals) and then drink 4 ounces every 15 minutes while you are training. If you are sweating a lot you will need to be sure to increase your water intake post exercise as well.
You do not need those sugar laden electrolyte replacement drinks if you are working out under an hour - those are for endurance athletes training for multiple hours. For our intense short workouts, water is the best thing to drink. If you find that you are experiencing any muscle cramping then be sure you are consuming high quality minerals and pump up the potassium with a green drink. Emergen-C is also great for post workout as the vitamin C helps quench any free radicals generated during the session and it sits in an electrolyte mineral base so it can help replenish those as well. Plus it tastes great!
What and when should you eat after your workout?
This is all important for your recovery and to refuel your energy stores for your next workout. I instruct my clients to eat within an hour of working out and consume a meal that includes 25-40 grams of protein (this is based on their lean body mass) and 25 grams of carbohydrate. My favorite post workout meal is a recovery shake as the high quality protein is easily assimilated to help provide amino acids to rebuild muscle and the fruit refuels the muscles’ stores of energy (called glycogen). Research shows that a meal with both high quality protein and carbs is more effective for recovery than either category on its own.
The one thing that you want to look out for post workout is loading up on the fructose. The amount in a piece of fruit or an Emergen-C packet is fine, but getting 20 grams or more from agave, high fructose corn syrup or straight fructose can block fat burning post exercise, and when you do the short intense workouts like I preach, this is when fat burning is at its peak!