Confused about what to include in your pre- and post-workout routines? We’re here to help you demystify what workout nutrition means, so you can focus on grabbing your gym bag, donning your running gear, saddling up your bike or whatever your next great exercise adventure is.
An important first question to ask is, how hard are you working out? Are you strolling around the block a couple of times, or taking your 10-mile, half-marathon training run? The harder your workout, the more key it is to fuel up as well as replenish your body’s stores of nutrients.
No matter what your fitness level is or how hard your exercise routine may be, getting all the nutrients your body needs for optimal well-being is a worthy goal. Even when we’re eating our best, sometimes we miss our nutritional mark. A simple daily regimen that includes multivitamins, omega-rich oils, probiotics and superfoods is a great practice. At Sprouts, we call this the Essential 4—read more about the benefits of these supplements!
As with many things in life, timing is everything. Fueling up about one to three hours before you intend to exercise is ideal. When you’re finished, refueling 15 to 20 minutes after you exercise is best. If that sounds unmanageable, having a post-workout snack within an hour to an hour and a half still helps your body to maximize those nutrients, replenishing the muscle proteins that were used up with activity.
Protein & Carbs
Now that you know when
to eat before and after a workout, what about the what
? Protein plays an important role in rebuilding and repairing your body. That’s why it should be a part of both your pre- and post-workout routines. Likewise, it’s equally important to take in carbs before and after—they’re the fuel your body craves.
You may want to consider a pre-workout supplement to help keep you focused and motivated. Here are some of the things you might see listed in the ingredients:
- Taurine is an amino acid found in the brain, organ tissue and muscles. A neurotransmitter, it regulates the transport of nutrients throughout the body.
- Creatine is synthesized from amino acids and may help to improve muscle performance as well as lessen cramping.
- Citrulline is an amino acid that naturally occurs in your body. It may help increase blood flow to your body’s tissues.
- Beta-alanineis an amino acid produced in your liver which may help delay muscle fatigue.
- L-argininehelps create nitric oxide which relaxes your blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow and oxygen exchange.
- Betaine is a fat processing amino acid that helps to maintain liver function.
- Caffeine can help raise your metabolic rate, improve endurance and reduce fatigue because it stimulates your central nervous system.
- Guarana is a plant-based stimulant with two times the caffeine of coffee.
If you’re watching your caffeine intake, a way to gauge the amount in a supplement is to remember a cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine in it.
Recovery / Post-workout
Developing a post-exercise routine is important for recovery as well as maximizing the effects of your workout. Remember the three Rs:
- Refuel: Now is the time for carbohydrates—your body needs them to refuel.
- Rebuild: After you’ve exercised, your muscles are most primed for the protein they need to rebuild themselves.
- Rehydrate: Remember to stay hydrated. Water enhanced with electrolytes (sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium) helps restore balance in your body. Or try coconut water, it’s filled with naturally occurring electrolytes.
In addition to getting the three Rs, you’ll want to be sure to get some good Zs. While we are sleeping, our bodies focus on muscle recovery, hormone balance and neurological restoration—all crucial to our overall well-being as well as athletic performance. Explore more about this foundation of good health.