Your diet can make or break your workout program. When I was younger, I used to put far more emphasis on my workout program than I did on my diet. I constantly searched around the internet looking for the perfect workout program that would give me the results I was looking for. I cycled through more workout programs than I care to name. I was oblivious to the fact, however, that I didn't need to constantly change my training to get the results I wanted. I just needed to be a bit more consistent in terms of my diet.
Sports nutrition can be a confusing topic. There's so much information out there, and it's difficult to know who to trust. You can rest assured that common sense advice is usually the best. You don't need the perfect diet or to follow a celebrity nutrition program. You just need to be consistent and make the right choices.
When it comes to nutrition, one of the most important aspects is how you fuel your body before and after a workout. Your body utilizes food differently during and after your workout, so you need to make sure that you optimize your nutritional intake accordingly.
Why is Pre-Workout Nutrition Important?
Energy is the name of the game when it comes to pre-workout nutrition. Primarily, your body relies on carbohydrates to fuel itself during workouts, along with protein. Fruits like apples and bananas are quick and convenient sources of clean energy before a workout. In addition, protein sources like egg whites are crucial for your body to perform at its best. A "classic" pre-workout breakfast might look like an egg sandwich and oatmeal with fruit added in.
Protein is mostly known for its post-workout benefits, but it also plays a role in bringing oxygen to the muscles, a crucial factor in performance. Eating protein pre-workout has also been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.
In addition, don't forget about hydration. Stay away from sugary "sports" drinks; opt for water with lemon instead or foods such as fruit that contain water and juices that keep you hydrated before exerting your energy in the gym.
Finally, try not to eat too much fat or fiber pre-workout. These compounds take a long time for your body to digest, and as such could leave you a bit lethargic before your workout.
Why is Post-Workout Nutrition Important?
Our conception of post-workout nutrition used to be limited to the hastily chugged protein shake right after a chest and arms session. Now, more and more people understand the necessity of a nutrient-dense, complete meal following a workout.
Your body needs more than just protein; it utilizes as many nutrients as it can get to repair itself and keep itself functioning properly. Eating good foods like complex carbs and patients allow your body to slow the breakdown of its muscle mass. Eating smart foods can also speed your recovery time, allowing you to hit the gym sooner.
In addition to protein and carbs, you should consume healthy sources of fat. Some are worried that consuming fat can slow the digestion and absorption of protein into the body, but most studies suggest that consuming even a relatively high amount of fat post-workout won't affect your body's ability to use protein.
A great post-workout meal might look like a steak with roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli. You get plenty of fat and protein from the steak, some valuable nutrients from the veggies along with plenty of carbs from the sweet potato.
Austin Winder is a Public Relations Specialist living in Memphis, TN, holding a business and marketing degree from the University of Memphis.
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