Fueling Your Body to Optimize Your Workouts

Only one month left until race day! Surprisingly, I’ve managed to stick to my training schedule for the most part and have kept myself motivated enough to go for a run at least 2-3 days a week. Just last night I finally made it through the full 5k without stopping to walk – in just over 30 minutes! My goal now is to continue improving my time so I can finish the race in less than 28 minutes.

What I’ve quickly discovered as my training continues is just how important it is to eat the right foods prior to and after a workout. Seeing as I don’t get home from work until 6:30 and it starts to get dark now at around 7:15, my window of opportunity for outdoor exercise during the work week is getting smaller and smaller (the idea of running around outside in the dark on my own makes me uncomfortable). Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important for me to prepare pre-workout snacks and meals in advance to ensure I have enough time to digest my food and run when it’s still light outside.

I decided to do a bit more research to figure out what foods are the best to eat before and after a workout, because I’ve noticed on days where I eat properly that running longer distances is much easier (and therefore more enjoyable!). On days where I don’t eat enough, eat too much, or eat the wrong things I feel a lot more sluggish – sometimes even sick – and really have to push myself to get through a workout.

So here’s the gist of what I’ve learned!

Before a Cardio Workout
You should have a light meal/snack approximately 30-60 minutes before a cardio session. Carbs should constitute about 75-100% of the meal, while protein should constitute the rest. The carbs get metabolized quickly into glucose (energy), while the protein helps keep this energy supply constant for the duration of your workout. Aim for low Glycemic Index (GI) carbs such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, as they release sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and provide more sustainable energy. Don’t forget to hydrate well by drinking plenty of water throughout the day before your workout!

Examples of some good pre-cardio meals could include:

  • A slice of whole grain toast with natural peanut butter (or other nut butter)135
  • Plain Greek yogurt with whole grain granola and dried fruits
  • A homemade fruit smoothie, perhaps made with some yogurt, granola, or whey protein
  • A small bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fresh berries
  • Scrambled egg whites stuffed in a small whole wheat pita, with a side of carrot sticks

My go-to pre-workout snack typically consists of about ¼ cup of organic granola with a bit of almond milk, and a couple of organic whole grain crackers topped with natural peanut butter. Just enough fuel to keep me going, but not too much so that I feel full!

After a Cardio Workout
Within 30 minutes after completing a cardio workout, you should definitely re-hydrate with plenty of water, as well as a carbohydrate-rich snack or light meal. The key is to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes lost during your workout, so think whole grains, fruits and veggies! A bit of protein to help aid muscle recovery and growth is also important.

Examples of some good post-cardio meals could include:075

  • Apple slices topped with peanut or almond butter
  • A fruit smoothie made with yogurt and almond milk
  • Sliced fruit and/or veggies with a handful of walnuts
  • A small veggie omelet topped with sliced avocado
  • An open-faced sandwich with hummus and fresh veggies

My favourite post-workout smoothie is a combination of frozen banana slices, unsweetened almond milk, natural peanut butter, ground flaxseed, and chia seeds – deeeeelicious!

Of course, everyone has different fitness and health goals, so the above options might not appeal to you or your dietary needs. For those that are interested in some general information, I found this guideline to be really helpful (courtesy of Pinterest):

The Complete Guide to Workout Nutriton [Infographic]

Be Well & Keep Training Hard!

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