Everyone knows that athletes must plan and time their meals and snacks very carefully to reach their performance goals. But what about the rest of us? You try to squeeze in 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Do you have to be careful about what you eat before and after your workouts, too?
There are some advantages to knowing how your body works and what it needs to perform at its best. The bottom line for healthy weight loss and fitness sounds simple: You must eat fewer calories than you use up—but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best.
The size, timing and content of your pre and post-exercise meals and snacks can play an important role in your energy levels during your workout, how well your body recovers and rebuilds after exercise and whether the calories you eat will be used as fuel or stored as fat. Here’s what you need to eat and drink to get the results you want.
Your Post-Exercise Fluid Needs
Most moderate exercisers will lose about one quart (four cups) of fluid per hour of exercise, so try to drink about 400 ml of water shortly after your workout to aid the recovery process. If you sweat a lot or the weather is hot and/or humid, consider weighing yourself before and after exercise, and drinking 200ml of water for every ounce of weight you’ve lost. Because heavy sweating also causes loss of minerals and electrolytes, consider using a sports drink with electrolytes if you need to replace more than two or three cups of fluid.
We suggest you add ½ chopped any fruit you enjoy, along with few chia seeds and few mint leaves to enhance the taste of water and that also helps in boosting the Vitamin content in water.
Your Post-Exercise Meal or Snack
Many people are very hungry after a workout, making it easy to eat more than you really need or to choose foods that won’t really help your body. Eating too much of the wrong thing can cause your body to store that food as fat instead of using your post-workout meal to refuel and repair your muscles.
So what does the ideal meal or snack look like?
- Roughly 60 percent of the calories you eat at this time should come from carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs more carbohydrates than protein after a workout, to replace depleted muscle fuel (glycogen) and to prepare for your next exercise session. Moderate exercisers need about 30-40 grams of carbohydrates after an hour of exercise, but high-intensity exercisers need around 50-60 grams for each hour they exercised..
- While carbs are essential, it’s also important to include some high-quality protein in your post-workout meal or snack. This protein will stop your body from breaking down muscle tissue for energy and initiate the process of rebuilding and repairing your muscles. About 25 percent of the calories you eat after a workout should come from protein—that’s about 10-15 grams for most people.
- Fat doesn’t play a big role in post-workout recovery, and eating too much fat after a workout won’t help your weight control or fitness endeavours. Only 15 percent (or less) of your post-workout calories should come from fat—that’s less than 10 grams.
The ideal time to eat after a workout is within 30 minutes to two hours, when your body is ready and waiting to top off its fuel tanks to prepare for your next session.
But if your appetite or schedule doesn’t allow you to eat a meal right after exercise, don’t panic. Your body can still replace your muscle fuel over the next 24 hours, as long as you’re eating enough food to support your activity level. Try to have a smaller snack that contains carbs and protein as soon after exercise as possible. Liquids like smoothies, shakes or chocolate milk, and/or energy bars, can be especially effective post-workout snacks.
Here are some sample food combinations for your post exercise meal:
- Bread, a bagel or an English muffin with feta cheese or peanut butter
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Paneer Paratha
- Cottage cheese with fruit
- Fruit Smoothie with Seeds
- Yogurt with fruit
- Veggie Egg omelet with toast or Egg roll
- Cottage Cheese Roll
- Chocolate Milk + ½ Scoop Protein Powder
- Cereal with Milk
- Eggs and toast
- Chicken Sandwich
- Vegetable stir-fry with Chicken/Fish/Tofu/Cottage Cheese
- Crackers with low fat cheese
- Rice or Oat cakes with nut butter
- Smoothie (with milk, yogurt or added protein powder)
- A protein or energy bar
- A protein or energy shake
- Pancakes and eggs
- Any regular meal that contains lean protein, starch and vegetables
Article Contributed by nutritionist Kejal Shah, Nutritionist, Weight Management Expert and Founder of Nutrivity.in