A grain bowl with lots of vegetables is perfect post-workout fare. Image by: Getty Images
What you eat before and after the gym makes a difference. Here's why.
If you exercise on an empty stomach, your body will break down muscle protein to fuel your workout. So instead of burning fat, you will burn the valuable muscle tissue you’re working so hard to build. And losing muscle mass can make it harder to lose weight.
Before you sweat
Always eat a small meal that includes fibre-rich carbohydrates and a small amount of protein one to two hours before exercising. This winning combination will be digested slowly, maximizing your energy for your workout and helping you stay full longer. Try these pairings.
• Whole grain cereal with skim milk and fruit
• Peanut butter and banana wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
• Half a chicken sandwich loaded with vegetables
• Oatmeal made with skim milk and topped with berries
Best food for after your workout
Healthy carbs need to be replenished after your workout because they will have been used up as the body’s main source of fuel. Enjoy a revitalizing meal within an hour of exercising. Again, choose a high-fibre carb (whole grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, vegetables) paired with protein (eggs, milk, meat, legumes) to help repair your well-used muscles.
Take a pass on refined carbs before you work out (or any time, really). White bread, baked goods and sugary sweets are void of fibre; they provide a quick burst of easily digested carbohydrates, with an energy crash soon after. These carbs put you on a roller-coaster ride of fluctuating blood sugar levels, which will leave you feeling hungry every few hours. And that won’t help with weight control.
Also, eating too much fat or protein before a workout slows the digestive process and can cause an upset stomach. A tablespoon of peanut butter is ideal; three tablespoons is too much.