Diet and exercise are the yin and yang of health and wellness. But are you incorporating these two symbiotic elements into your fitness plan in the most effective way? Read on for the 411 on all things eating and exercise, along with how to maximize the former in order to get the most out of the latter.
The Diet-Exercise Connection
The relationship between diet and exercise is well documented. Whether your goal is to shed pounds or simply enjoy better overall health, eating the right foods and moving your body more can make all the difference. (Speaking of moving your body more, Brick Bodies can help. Sign up for a trial pass today to get started.)
What does it mean to “eat the right foods,” especially when the wisdom regarding eating right changes every day? As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. “Eating approximately the same amount of healthy food daily is enough, and doing it daily establishes the habit of eating a clean diet…and it keeps the diet less complicated,” says Men’s Health.
In other words, by choosing to adopt healthy eating habits as part of your lifestyle, you’re already on the right track. Conversely, thinking you need to eat more because of a workout may be misguided because the average workout doesn’t require the extra calories.
Notes nutrition consultant Riska Platt, M.S., R.D., “You don’t have to adhere to a rigid schedule and there are no hard-fast rules. But there are some things you should do before, during and after you work out.”
Fueling Your Workout
That said, there are some foods you can eat before, during, and after exercise that can help your body achieve peak performance and recover better. In other words, instead of thinking in terms of whether you need to eat more on workout days, think about whether you need to eat differently.
One of the most important ways to get your workout off to the best start and finish is to eat a healthy breakfast. Recommends the Mayo Clinic: “If you exercise in the morning, get up early enough to finish breakfast at least one hour before your workout. Be well-fueled going into a workout. Studies suggest eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercise can improve workout performance and may allow you to work out for a longer duration or higher intensity.”
How much you eat before working out may be as important as what you eat. Overdoing it can result in feelings of sluggishness, while not eating enough can cause you to feel weak. This begs the question: what should you eat before a workout? Healthy carbs are particularly important as they quickly metabolize into energy. In fact, carbs should make up a whopping 75 to 100 percent of any meal consumed within 30 to 60 minutes before exercise.
Eating after a workout is also key as this is the prime time to replenish energy stores, replace fluids, and promote tissue-recovery and repair. This brings us to protein. Because protein can take a long time to break down in the system, it’s not ideal prior to a workout. However, consuming ample protein after a workout — or during, for workouts lasting longer than an hour — supports optimal muscle building.
One surprising food deemed the ultimate post-workout meal is chocolate milk. “Chocolate milk has a lot of benefits for muscle recovery. It helps replenish the muscle tissue and actually gives you a shorter recovery time,” personal trainer Ingrid Nelson told The Washington Post.
The H2O Imperative
While chocolate milk has its benefits following your workout, another beverage is essential before, during, and after. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking two to three cups of water in the two to three hours before working out; drinking one-half to one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes while working out; and drinking two to three cups of water after working out.
The Mayo Clinic notes: “Water is generally the best way to replace lost fluids. But if you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes, use a sports drink. Sports drinks can help maintain your body’s electrolyte balance and give you a bit more energy because they contain carbohydrates.”
One last thing to keep in mind is that not everyone is created equal when it comes to diet, exercise, and performance. Trying different pre- and post-exercise meals and snacks can help you determine which ones work best for you. For more helpful fitness education information, download our free ebook 20 Best Tips for Gym Newbies.