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What are the Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out?

INSHAPE NEWS Q ‘n’ A

Reader Nicola Cowan asks:

“I have been working out frequently but have not noticed any real changes in my body. Should I be eating certain foods before and after my workout to get results?”

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Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author, Speaker and Health and Business Coach

Essentially WHAT you should eat depends on the aim of your workout – are you building muscle or improving your fitness through cardio? Also, WHEN you eat is just as crucial; it’s timing dependent on what foods you’ve chosen to use to fuel-up.

BUILDING MUSCLE

If building muscle is your game, as well as losing fat and increasing your metabolism at the same time, then you’ll want a pre-workout meal which focuses on lean proteins. Some of the best lean proteins are grilled meats, eggs (or egg whites), low-fat Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese – anything low in fat and high in protein.  These foods contain Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which help increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown during and after your workout, minimising muscle wastage and maximising muscle-building opportunities.

CARDIO WORKOUT

If you’re going for a high-energy cardio workout, then you’ll need to consume items that are higher in complex carbohydrates, to give you enough slow released energy to push yourself through an energetic workout. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) carbohydrates like quinoa, mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes, cauliflower, zucchini and green leafy vegetables help to fill up your glycogen stores and also create a more anabolic effect.  Avoid carbohydrates like processed foods, grains, wheat, sugar and high-starch root vegetables (no potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot or beetroot) which convert to sugar and negatively impact on the results of your workout.

INTERVAL TRAINING

If you’re doing a combined workout, like interval training, then simply eat a balance of the two – protein and carbohydrates – focus on fibre, this will fill you up so you don’t get hungry. Don’t over-eat and keep your calories to between 200 and 350 depending on your weight and workout plan.

WHEN TO EAT

Also, remember that WHEN to eat is just as crucial. Eating on an empty stomach (unless it’s first thing in the morning to kick start your metabolism with a post-work out breakfast) is generally not recommended, although it does work for some people. Knowing how long to eat before your workout helps is the key to maximising your results and minimising any pre or post workout fatigue.

FOOD DIGESTION TIME

Different types of foods take different times to digest, from the stomach to the small intestine, which is when its nutrition is available for absorption and use by the body in your workout.

PROTEINS

Proteins take around 3-4 hours to digest, muscle-building workouts benefit from eating a high-protein low-fat meal containing 100 to 250g of raw protein weight (size depends on your body weight) 3-4 hours before working out. Mix your high protein up with some non-starchy vegetables for a boost of low GI energy.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates take around 2-3 hours to digest but simple carbohydrates like sugar, grains, flours and starchy vegetables convert quickly and, while they release energy, it’s a short burst that can also throw your insulin balance out. Low-GI complex carbohydrates give you sustained slow release energy that lets you power through your workout.

DIETARY FAT

Dietary fat takes 6-8 hours to digest, so it’s best to consume high-fat (good-fat) foods like nuts, avocados, and salmon in the meals following your workout.

If it’s been longer than 3-hours since your last meal and you’re soon to hit the gym consider adding a pre-workout snack, such as an orange or an apple, or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries with a little low-fat Greek yoghurt a couple of hours beforehand. Most fruits, including convenient bananas, are too high in simple fructose sugar which reduces the benefits of your workout; slows your metabolism and raises your body’s natural weight set point.

WORKOUT FOODS
Work Out Type Foods to Eat Eat Before Workout
High Energy Cardio Complex Low-GI carbohydrates

Including green leafy veggies

2-3 Hours
Resistance or Weight Training Lean Protein 100g-250g

Green leafy veggies

3-4 Hours
Combination Workout Mix of the two above 3-4 Hours
Emergency Fuel Apple, Orange, Berries and/or low-fat Greek yoghurt 2 Hours

 

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

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Sara Colquhoun – Pilates Instructor

We all know the saying “you are what you eat” and it’s absolutely true! Leading up to a workout you need to fuel your body with the most nourishing foods to ensure your energy stays strong throughout the day.

Before getting started there are a few things you need to ask yourself:

What type of exercise are you doing?

What time of day are you planning on working out?

How long before your workout do you need to eat?

CONSIDER YOUR WORKOUT TYPE

The reason it’s important to think about what type of exercise you are doing is it may determine what type of food you can stomach in order to complete your workout.

It’s also vital to consider how close to your workout do you want to be having a meal. For example, I do a lot of Pilates workouts. This is a strong workout for my deep core muscles and if I eat even an hour before my session I don’t feel like I can engage my abdominals as well. I recommend allowing your food at least an hour to digest before your workout and just having a light meal before hand if you are doing a practice like Pilates, Yoga, Barre or Dance.

SARA’S HIDDEN GREENS SMOOTHIE

My favorite light meal pre-workout is my hidden greens smoothie!! This is a blend of nut milk, cacao, spinach, banana and maca powder, and is packed full of nutrients, easy to digest and you won’t even know you have greens in there! I promise.

Ingredients like this give you loads of energy and endurance, as well as the spinach having an alkalizing affect on the body. This means that post workout you can have more of a substantial meal. Again I tend to opt for something that still fills my plate with greens and protein like poached eggs on a bed of asparagus with avocado to get those good fats in there too! Yum!

The great thing about the hidden greens smoothie is you could have this anytime of day as a pre workout energy boost and depending on how physically demanding your workout is it will determine when you feel like you need to eat after the workout.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Constantly listen to your body, it will tell you if you need more or less food. We are all different and we need to respect what our body needs on a daily basis. My only rule would be don’t eat any foods that are highly processed or with lots of full of sugar before a workout. Look for natural products that are easy for the body to digest. The cleaner the food is the better you will feel! Most of all enjoy your workout!!

Sara_3_Full

One of the most accomplished Pilates instructors for her age, Sara Colquhoun has been training in Pilates since the age of 14, and teaching since the age of 17. Her clients include elite AFL players and Australian Ballet dancers.

Sara’s background as a performing artist in dance – attending The Victorian College of the Arts after moving from Sydney at the age of 18 – led her to the natural progression of becoming an instructor.

After completing her diploma in dance and performing arts, Sara pursued a career in Pilates under guidance of Pilates International.  She is now owns and manages her own studio Ki Movement Pilates located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne.

Throughout her teaching career Sara has trained AFL players from the Western Bulldogs, Australian Ballet dancers, VCA students, Musical theatre performers (Jersey Boys, West – “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today” ~ Robert McKee 2  Side Story), Cirque de Soleil artists, all the way to radio presenters.

Sara’s highlight in her career to date is the recent accolade of winning the international competition to become the next Pilates Anytime instructor. She is one of the youngest instructors to join such an elite group of trainers on the site with direct lineage from founder of the movement, Joseph Pilates. Pilates Anytime is a global platform that has viewers from all around the world who will be watching and performing Sara’s classes.

She has big plans for bringing knowledge of body awareness, general health, well-being and an education of Pilates, along with communicating the benefits it has across all aspects of functional movement to everyday life.

Your Questions Answered

Do You Want to Read More Health and Fitness Questions and Answers? Then Click Here 🙂

Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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  1. […] farm, which spans over two hectares. Here visitors and trainees will find organic rice and vegetables, along with free range native pigs and chickens. Everyone also enjoys organic meals and wood-fired […]

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  2. […] a famous saying – “you are what you eat” – which is true. We are the result of the nutrients we absorb from our food. On a much deeper scale, the better the quality your food, the better quality your nutrients. Good […]

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