If you really want to live a Heart.Muscle.Mind lifestyle you need to start regularly viewing the purpose of food and beverages as fuel and hydration for your body with the bonus of being pleasurable, rather than pleasure as the primary purpose. Man viewed it this way when we were concerned with survival but these days food as a source of happiness has been drilled into us by all the marketing of packaged goods and restaurants we see on a daily basis. There is a middle path with need to find with food, and all things, that provides what we need to be healthy and allows us to enjoy it as well. When you workout, regularly remind yourself that food and drink are actually our fuel and hydration, so that everytime we exercise it engrains this perspective helping to shift our way of thinking.
Below is a look at what to eat and drink before, during and after a workout for optimum energy and muscle repair.
Pre Workout Fueling:
If you have ever tried to have a good workout on a totally empty stomach, and or dehydrated (i.e. when hung over), it doesn't go well. You an get an initial blast of energy as your body responds to the raised body temp and heart rate, but you quickly crash hard, even feeling light headed, nauseous
or with a headache. On the flip side raising your heart rate and pumping your muslces after a big heavy meal can make you want to pump your stomach. So given how much improper hydration and fueling can curb your workout, imagine how much better your workout experience can be when you are properly hydrated and fueled.
You should try to stay hydrated all the time by drinking some water based beverage every two hours or so in smaller amounts (about 8-ounzes), ideally sipping throughout the day. When you know you will be sweating and exerting yourself it's a good idea to up your water intake 1-2 hours prior to your workout. In a 2003 study by the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology nearly half of all exercisers (majority were regualr gym goers) arrived at the gym already dehydrated-even though more than half thought they were properly hydrated.
Generally caffeine is okay in the mornings or just before a workout as it is proven to enhance athletic performance, however it is a dieretic so over caffinating (you know who you are with your big gulp sized coffees and punch card at Starbuck's) is going to work against your hydration and give you big ups and downs which is adding more physical and mental stress into your life. Water intake should far beat out coffee and don't even talk to me about soda (sugary acid).
Fueling or eating pre workout is much the same as hydrating as far as the schedule. You never want to get to the point were you are really feeling hunger pains, so eating smaller meals throughout the day is best, i.e. no pig out meals and have larger healthy snacks handy. Specifically, you might have a snack 1-3 hours before you workout (everyone's stomach is different) that is ideally
3 (Fruit/Veggie/Whole Grain Mix) : 1 Protein
Adding a little protein source if you can like maybe peanut butter, yoghurt or hummus (beans) helps with endurance and keeps protein in your body to start to rebuild muscle when your workout concludes.
Warning: Don't over eat and stick to simple, easily digested foods as intense workouts tend to bring up anything that is still sitting in the stomach.
During Workout Hydration:
Dehydration can negatively impact an exerciser's physical and cognitive performance; therefore, arriving at the gym already dehydrated puts exercisers at a real disadvantage for their workouts and achieving their fitness goals. In addition, research has shown that exercisers tend to replenish only about 50% of the fluids they lose during a workout. The obvious answer is to drink more water! water! water! Research also shows however that people will drink more of a lightly flavored beverage than plain water, and will therefore stay better hydrated before, during and after working out. So maybe try out both and see which you drink more of during your workout.
There is also an accepted rule of thumb that if you are working out for longer than an hour you are going to want to drink a water based beverage that has some calories and electrolytes in it to replace the carbohydrates and minerals that you have burned up and sweated out in that hour of exercise. Eating during a workout is not really recommended as you need the fuel to be so simple that it can be digested right into your blood stream to have any effect on your performance. Hence you see the gels for endurance training, but for most of us a few calories in our water is just fine and/or proper pre-workout feuling.
Post Workout Replenishment:
After a great workout of 45 minutes or more your energy, hydration and sources of muscle repair, i.e. protein, can be seriously depleted, making the post workout meal immensly important. In Fusion's Cross-training workouts the amount of calories burned in one cross-training session could range from approximately 600-1200 calories depending on the size of the person and the intensity of the workout, which is quite a lot. When your body runs out of carbohydrates, which are the body's top choice for energy needs, it defers to its second choice, protein. If you don't have protein or fat calories in your stomach to convert to energy, which is suboptimal in itself, it will look for the next source, your muscles! Yes your body will actually eat itself if it doesn't have fuel in the tank, which is working against your goals, so it is imperative that you get food in your body within 30-60 minutes after you workout. Wait even a few hours and your ability to replenish that fuel drops by half.
Exercise stimulates your body to both increase insulin levels to help you absorb more carbohydrate energy, as well as, increase muscle protein synthesis and protein breakdown to speed muscle repair. If you eat enough protein and carbohydrates soon after a workout this accelerated replenishing and healing ability can last for 4-6 hours after your workouts, but it will quickly drop off if you don't eat within an hour or so after the workout. By not replenishing with healthy food you could do your muscles more harm than good in the long run.
So what is an ideal after workout meal?
Some advise having a recovery snack or drink that includes both carbohydrates and protein immediately after your workout followed by a full meal within two hours. Ideally this meal is heavy on protein with veggies and whole grains.
2 Protein : 2 (Fruit/Veggie/Whole Grain Mix)
As always the fat content of your food should be primarily healthier non-saturated fats, like vegetable, nut and fish oils rather than red meat and dairy. And remember, most of us don't rehydrate enough after a big workout, so continue to drink large glasses of water based beverages with your post workout meal as well.