The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates once advised, “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” In other words, if you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet then your body will be more healthy and well-balanced that someone who lives off junk food.
Working out on an empty stomach, contrary to popular belief, does not cause you to burn calories faster. The bottom line is that your body turns food into energy – and if you have no food in your body then you won’t be able to work out to your full potential.
Eat This and Avoid That
Before you hit the gym you should have some carbs and protein to fuel you through your entire workout. Here are some of my favorites that are not only healthy options, but also quick and easy to prepare.
- PB & J – Avoid a trip to the deli for a 12” sub, even if it is conveniently priced at just $5. Instead eat some peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat crackers or a whole grain bagel. Unlike complex carbs that take forever to provide your body with energy, simple carbs offer a quicker boost.
- OATMEAL – A cup of oatmeal topped with a drizzle of honey, spoonful of peanut butter, or a handful of fresh berries or other diced up fruit is a great way to provide your body with the energy required for a full workout.
- YOGURT – If you’re going to go yogurt, go Greek. It has both protein and carbs while serving up less sugar than alternate varieties. Unless you suffer from lactose intolerance, it’s a great choice! Add in some fruit, granola, or honey for a bonus burst of energy!
- CHICKEN & RICE – You worked late and don’t have time for dinner? Nonsense! Cook 1 chicken breast (shredded), 1 cup of brown rice, and 1 cup of red beans. Mix them up in a container and freeze. When you need a quick dinner, microwave it and eat it on go!
- CHEESE TOAST – This is much easier than making a grilled cheese sandwich and skips using margarine. Use your toaster to toast two slices of bread. Remove and slip a single slice of cheese between them. Microwave for 15 seconds and enjoy! Add scrambled egg whites for a pre-morning workout breakfast.
- PROTEIN SHAKES – Pre-Made protein shakes are often filled with empty carbs and difficult to pronounce preservatives. Make your own using almond milk, one peeled and sliced banana, ice cubes, and a scoop of protein powder. Berries and spinach optional – it’s delicious either way!
If you do not allow your foods time to properly digest, they will come back to haunt you – even if you made healthy choices. The rule of thumb is to wait about 45 minutes to an hour after eating before you hit the gym and attempt a workout. Nobody enjoys mid-workout stomach or hamstring cramps.
What to Eat After Your Workout
Now that your workout is over, do you still need to watch what you eat? Yes, absolutely! Along with staying hydrated during your exercise regime, you will want to choose foods that replace energy that you burned off while working out. Working out breaks down tissue and depletes some of your body’s natural resources, especially if you’re into interval training or weight lifting. And if you’re lifting every day, then your body may not have adequate time to recover before you hit the gym again.
Carbs and protein are what your body needs most after a heavy workout. I’ve found that the best way to get both is by drinking a delicious protein shake. I just follow the method explained above (ice, yogurt, organic protein powder, and fruits or veggies) using my blender.
Behold the Power of Protein
The reason why you need carbs and protein is because these two ingredients work best to enhance and repair muscles as the tissue recovers from a workout. Although dietitians debate over the quantity, my doctor recommends 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein.
If you’re not planning on working out the next day, you can skip the shake and just increase how much protein and carbs you eat over the next day or so. Try getting these two things naturally through organic foods whenever possible.
That is because when it comes to digesting food, your body finds it easier to get nutrients necessary for survival from plants and other natural, organic foods than it does from pills.