Ever heard of the expression that abs are grown in the kitchen? Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean baking a cake can suddenly get you super buff. Instead, the expression means that the food you eat could have a major impact on developing your muscle mass. Every body and workout is a little different, but we’ve put together this guide to help you get the most out of each training day.
Warming up and cooling down your body
If the thought of eating a big meal before going for a run makes your stomach turn, you’re not alone. But, according to Healthline, getting something in your body can help improve your workout performance and recovery.
Think of it like this: If you put a plant in a dark room with no sun or water, it won’t be able to grow. If you put yourself in a tough workout without any food or water, you won’t perform at your best either.
Mayo Clinic notes that even if weight loss is your goal, fueling up with nutritious food can still help in your workout. “Skimping on nutrition can reduce muscle mass, lower bone density, and cause fatigue. This puts you at risk of injury and illness, increases recovery time, causes hormonal problems, and, for women, menstrual issues.”
So eating a good meal before and after your workout can help your recovery, performance, and long-term results. But can you scarf down a whole pizza beforehand and still get the same results? Healthline notes, it is both when and what you eat that can make the biggest impact.
What do a hill workout, a barre class, and a long run have in common?
You need fuel no matter what activity you engage in! Whether you’re sprinting up a steep hill, flowing through a barre class, or cruising through your favorite long run, the only thing getting you to the end is the food you’ve eaten.
Is it safe to work out on an empty stomach? Healthline says no, not necessarily. Not getting enough nutrients and fuel could leave you feeling lightheaded, shaky, or nauseous with less stamina than normal.
Knowing what to eat
Macronutrients are the foods you can and should consume in large quantities so your body can function optimally. These are foods like carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Eating enough of these foods before and after your workout can help your body reach the goals you work so hard for.
Carbohydrates fuel the glucose in your cells to function. And according to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, carbs coupled with protein can boost your workout to the next level, especially in high-intensity and resistance training exercises. Carbs and protein help replenish the glucose levels in your cells so that you can perform at your best.
Protein is better known as a post-workout macro that can boost muscle recovery, mass, and performance. This macronutrient brings nutrients and oxygen to your muscles, both essential for performance and recovery, according to WebMD.
If you’re going for a long run at a low to moderate pace or an aerobic workout, fat intake can assist in your performance and recovery. In The Regulation of Fat Metabolism during Aerobic Exercise, the study found that “…fats are mainly oxidized at rest and at low aerobic exercise intensities, while carbohydrates are chiefly used at high intensities of exercise.” What this means is that fat is helpful in your daily activity and if you need to perform aerobic exercise, whereas if you’re participating in high-intensity workouts, loading up on carbs and protein will give you more results.
Knowing when to eat
Healthline reveals that the timing before and after your workout matters, as well as the length of the workout. If you exercise for less than an hour, your body isn’t using your pre-meal fuel as much as it would for longer stints. Along the same road, you should eat two to three hours before you engage in high-intensity workouts for the best results.
If you do eat 30 to 45 minutes before your workout, ensure the snack is simple and consists of mainly protein and carbs for easy digestion.
Knowing how to hydrate
Wondering why you sweat when you work out? Water is your body’s way of cooling off and regulating your body temperature, which makes hydration an essential part of the exercise. WebMD mentions consuming at least 16 ounces of water two hours before exercise for optimal results.
If you’re exercising outside in humid, hot conditions, WebMD recommends mixing in some sports drinks as well. Typically these beverages have carbs and sodium in them to help keep you energized and hydrated for longer.
Don’t worry, you’ve got this
When you’re trying your best to care for your body with proper food and exercise, you may run into a lot of contradicting information. The most important thing to remember is to listen to what your body needs and talk to your primary care provider. Together, you can reach your goals and feel great doing it!