Knowing when and how to fuel your body to meet your fitness goals is the most important thing you can do for your workouts beyond showing up at the gym. With the help of nutrition experts, we created a list of rules you should follow to exponentially improve your results.
1. Run Hungry…
Whether we want to bulk up or slim down in the gym, looking leaner is a nearly universal goal. According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, the best strategy for lowering body-fat percentage is to work out soon after waking up. “Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat,” he says. “Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite your body’s fat-burning ability.” Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize body fat as an energy source.
2. …But Fuel Your Muscles to Give Them a Lift
Although doing cardio in a fasted state is a good plan for burning fat and improving insulin sensitivity, you should pre-fuel before a weight workout. While you can huff along on a treadmill depleted, your body needs energy to get through a more intense session. Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN recommends eating 30 grams of carbohydrates before a workout. That’s about the amount you’d find in a large banana. “Without carbs, you’ll get tired in the middle of your workout, and it won’t be as effective,” she says.
For a workout requiring lots of energy, Kaufman suggests eating whole-grain pancakes three to four hours before your workout, and bananas, a fruit smoothie, or oats half an hour beforehand. Santoro recommends protein for pre-workout fueling. “Because you’ll only have 30 to 60 minutes to digest your food, drink a fast-acting protein like whey isolate that’s easily absorbed into your body,” he says, adding that egg whites are a good substitute. For more ideas, check out our list of the 29 Best High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss!
3. Stay Away from Sugary Sports Drinks
Ever see someone consuming a Gatorade after a leisurely stroll or Vitaminwater after a short bike ride? They’re doing it wrong. “Many people feel they need these sugar-dense drinks after short workouts,” says Kaufman. “The truth is, these drinks often have more calories in them than what’s actually being burned off.” Her advice is not to consume such drinks unless you work out with an elevated heart rate for at least an hour. “Oftentimes these drinks are needed due to the risk of dehydration,” she says, but cautions that if you’re working out in mild temperatures or for less than an hour, they’re largely unnecessary. She maintains that it’s best to drink water to ensure you’re not consuming more calories than are being burned off.
4. Remember to Refuel
“Post-workout nutrition is crucial to any fitness goals,” says Santoro, who maintains that pre- and post-workout nutrition are the two most important meals of your day. Why is it so important to refuel your body immediately after a workout? It helps replenish glycogen levels, decrease protein breakdown, and increase protein synthesis and the ability to build muscle. “Immediately following a weight-training exercise is when your body utilizes protein at its best,” says Kaufman. She recommends following resistance-training exercise with an egg-white omelet or Greek yogurt. “I always tell my patients to consume at least 10 to 20 grams of protein after a weight-training regimen,” she says.
5. Don’t Out-eat What You Burned
A whopping 70 to 75 percent of the calories we expend each day is needed for our “basal metabolic functions:” Everything from keeping your heart beating to making your fingernails grow. When we exert a lot of extra energy in the gym, our bodies call out for more fuel with hunger pangs and a rumbling belly. At this point, people tend to undermine their efforts with a superfluous amount of food, says Lisa Jubilee, MS, CDN. “When exercise-induced hunger sets in, only increase your calorie intake up to 20 to 30 percent of what your calorie tracker says you burned,” she says. Jubilee reminds us that we would have naturally burned a percentage of those calorie anyway, just sitting around.
Source: Eat This, Not That! 7 Ways Make Your Workout 500% More Effective
BY GRANT STODDARD