For many people trying to get a lean physique, nutrition is the missing link that gets forgotten. We all recognize the importance of regular exercise which may mean running on a treadmill or lifting weights, but if we don't eat right as well then we won't get the most from our workout.
But this doesn't just mean coming up with a diet plan that you need to stick to over a long period of time – it also means what you eat directly before and directly after your workout which can have a profound impact on how it goes. Here we will look at what to eat for best at these junctures.
Pre Workout Nutrition
Prior to working out you are trying to supply your body primarily with energy. To work out you will want to give yourself a bit of available energy because this will allow you to run or lift harder and for longer.
However you also need to ensure that you are eating things that will release energy at the right time. This means eating a relatively quick release carb, but not something like sugar that will result in an energy peek followed by a trough. The best energy snack before a workout in many case then is a banana which will give you a sugar surge around four hours after you have consumed it which will come steadily for your workout.
At the same time a banana has several other very handy benefits. For one it will release dopamine which is a 'happiness hormone' and which will ensure you're enthusiastic and help to further boost energy. At the same time it will also supply you with potassium, which is an electrolyte and can prevent cramp coming on as a result of sweating. Very handy. Finally a banana also contains vitamin B6 which helps us to get more usable energy (ATP) from our carbs – for all these reasons it's a perfect snack a couple of hours before training.
Note as well that it's also important not to eat anything stodgy or very filling right before a workout because this will sit badly on your stomach and get shaken around leading to potential acid reflux or sickness. Don't eat vast quantities in the build up to a workout, and avoid fats which take the longest to digest. Water is also a good idea to avoid dehydration again caused by sweating.
Finally you may also benefit from a little garlic, so humus sandwiches or some garlic mayonnaise will go down a treat. That's because these are vasodilators, resulting in wider blood vessels which in turn enables our body to transport more blood and more oxygen to the muscles.
Post Workout Nutrition
After a workout there's just one thing you need in you: protein. When you've worked out this puts your body in an 'anabolic' recovery state – in other words it will be focussed on rebuilding your muscle tissue and for that it's going to need protein. If you don't get some complete protein in your diet during this anabolic window then you will have missed a great opportunity for muscle growth, so make sure you have a protein shake or some eggs to hand when you're done (your other anabolic period is while you sleep, so make sure you get some then too). For straight after a workout whey is the best form of protein shake because this is highly bioavailable for the body meaning it can use it more quickly. Something like casein takes longer to break down and so runs the risk of missing that anabolic window. The other point to remember is that you want to get all of the essential amino acids at once, and you want a good 'amino acid profile'. Make sure you read up on what's gone into your shake of choice, and consider eating a second source of protein to further reduce the chance of missing out on anything crucial your body needs at that time.
Again while your body is in recover it is going to be trying to pump blood to the muscles, this time to deliver those essential nutrients like the amino acids. So again that means garlic or perhaps the supplement NO2 which does the same thing. Both before and after working out you should avoid vasoconstrictors such as alcohol or caffeine.
Finally if you have sweated a lot then you might want to replenish your fluids as well as those electrolytes sodium and potassium + your available blood sugar. You can do this with an 'isotonic' sports drink, which means a sports drink containing salt, sugar and water in the same ratios as our blood.