One of my favorite topics is how food affects performance, recovery and results. It’s by far the most important part of the equation and one that many of us experience on Activation. Just how do we achieve those results? The food and the fitness really work hand in hand.
Wondering what foods to eat in order to fuel your workout, maximize results and speed up recovery? Let’s dive into some complex carbs, polyunsaturated fatty acids and everything in between to figure out what you can eat pre- and post-workout to optimize your performance. Obviously, everyone subscribes to a different style of eating, so for example if you are following Intermittent Fasting you’ll have to adjust to fit your own style.
Regardless of whether you eat or don't eat prior to exercise, research shows the body burns the same amount of fat. However, you can cause muscle loss if you regularly work out with no fuel in your tank. When you're hungry, your body draws protein from muscle (which causes muscle loss and a slowed metabolism) instead of from your kidneys and liver, where the body normally takes protein from.
We recently talked about Intuitive Eating, and often what my body is telling me is I need to fuel lightly prior to a workout and after rather than a heavy meal one or the other. Yours may be different, so please take all of this with a grain of salt.
Ideally, a snack or meal you eat prior to exercising will include a protein and a complex carbohydrate and try to finish at least 30 minutes to an hour before you begin your workout. Complex carbs are found in whole grains, starchy vegetables and fruit and are more slowly absorbed by the body than simple refined sugars. Having a mix of complex carbohydrates and lean protein will help you release energy in a slow and steady manner over the course of your workout.
Good ideas to nosh on prior to your workout that incorporate both complex carbs and protein are my LB Proats, a piece of fruit with a tablespoon of nut butter, or my Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. For the chickpeas, try using Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame seasoning and thank me later. Nut butter and chickpeas are both great natural ways to access branched-chain amino acids, which have been shown to prevent muscle breakdown during exercise.
I should mention I’m not a fan of “pre-workout” packaged goods marketed toward gym goers. Most pre-workout supplements are jam packed with caffeine and artificial sweeteners and while you may feel a burst of energy, that’s just the caffeine talking. I’d rather you drink a cup of black coffee, matcha or caffeinated tea instead of a packaged powder with a list of ingredients longer than a CVS receipt.
Post workout, it’s time to restore your glycogen reserves via more complex carbs burned up during cardio and strength training. I also support incorporating a moderate amount of polyunsaturated fat via Omega-3 fatty acids to help with muscle recovery. You can find these anti-inflammatory fatty acids in food like salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. To get a good mix of carbs/fat/protein, try building a Mexican-ish Salad or dig into a Tuna Wrap about an hour after your workout.
For both beauty benefits and workout performance, collagen supports muscle growth and joint health any time so get it in when you can! It’s great for your hair, skin and nail health, and you can boost collagen with bone broths or a supplement like Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.
Remember to drink water before, during, and after your workout. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll feel fatigued, sluggish, crampy, and unable to work to your best potential. Food and water are your fuel to make it through our workouts together, and failing to prepare properly can leave you lightheaded, nauseated or lethargic and more prone to injury. I’m always open to hearing your recs for pre- and post-workout meals so make sure to share them over on our Studio LB facebook group or text me on the hotline 424-327-5470.