I am often asked by my clients what they should be eating before and after their workouts. The answer I give them is "it depends." I then ask them the question" What are you trying to achieve for this workout?" This is often met with blank faces - I want to tone up/lose fat/get fitter/build muscle. It is not possible to achieve all these from the same workout. Each goal needs a different type of workout and also a different type of fuel (nutrition) to get the maximum benefit from the workout. So lets consider each one.
In simple terms if we want to lose weight we need to be using more energy(calories) than we are consuming; so that would suggest the less we eat and the more we move the more likely we are to lose weight. That is true to some extent. What we want to consider, however, is what is the "weight'" we are losing. It is no good losing weight if it is our muscles being broken down for fuel - we want to be breaking our fat down. At vision we recommend doing 75% of our cardio as low to moderate intensity and 25% as high intensity. The bodies favourite energy source is carbohydrates - when the body runs out of carbs it can switch to burning fat instead - That process however can take time and is considered too slow for high intensity training - If therefore we are doing high intensity training with no carbs to use as fuel we are likely to be breaking down muscle rather than fat as energy. (It is possible to stop this with certain supplements but that is another discussion).
So to get maximum weight loss benefit from a cardio session we want to use fat as a fuel source. It is suggested that we restrict the intake of Carbs for 2 hours prior and an hour after our cardio session. The reason being if the body doesn't have its favourite fuel source available it will need to use a substitute - so it breaks down our stores of fat to use instead. And post workout our body will continue to burn fat for upto an hour afterwards - providing we don't feed it Carbs. If carbs are consumed out Pancreas will administer Insulin into the blood stream and our bodies do not use fat as a fuel source when Insulin is present in our blood.
If we are training for an event, for example City to Surf or our first 5km fun run then we need to fuel our body in a different manner and train at a different intensity. For this workout we want to make sure we have sufficient fuel in our body to power it to be able to run as far or as fast as we are aiming for. A lot of people will over estimate the amount of fuel required to do this. Generally if we are running for less than 60 mins the body will have enough Glycogen stores to complete the run happily without the need to "carb load. If we are going for longer than that - or indeed going all out speed wise for a p.b. (personal best) then a small banana or peanut butter toast etc may be beneficial. How much time we leave in between eating and running is a personal preference. Some people are fine eating 15 mins before a run - others will get stomach cramps or nauseous if they eat within 2 hours of a run - so I suggest finding the optimum time for yourself by simple trial and error.
As for intensity you would be looking at training at about 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. (max heart rate is approx. 220BPM - your age). This is a pretty good estimate for training to achieve improvements in our aerobic capacity.
c) Increasing lean muscle mass
In simple terms we gain muscle by putting our muscle fibres into overload - They then repair themselves to be bigger and stronger than they were before - provided they have the right fuel to do this. For a weight training session what we eat afterwards is more important than what we eat before hand. As long as we feel energised enough to complete our sets and repetitions to the best of our ability then our nutrition is fine. You may feel a little flat sometimes so a high g.i snack pre workout may help to boost energy levels and help you smash out those last few reps. Post workout is another matter. It is recommended to consume a protein rich meal/snack within one hour of the session. Protein is the bodies building blocks and it is essential to enable us to repair and build our muscles. A whey protein shake is ideal as it can be digested more easily than solid food and therefore gets to work faster.
d) De-stress / fun
This might surprise a few of you but some people exercise for fun! It is also a great way to get rid of some of the stress and frustration that can build up in our very busy daily lives. Nutrition is not as important if you are working out for one of these reasons. Just get to the studio , pick your favourite workout activities and go hard! Enjoy those endorphins and hopefully go home feeling better than before you came in!
Most of us have very busy lives these days and finding the time to exercise can be a challenge. If we have a plan for each session then we can get the maximum amount of benefit for those valuable hours spent exercising. We might have the same plan for every time we work out, and that is fine , but most of us will have various different goals we want to be working towards. So before your next trip to the studio , your next walk , your next 10km training run decide what outcome you want from the session and provide your body with the right type and quantity of fuel to get you there.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.