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Ultimate Guide To Workout Nutrition
Nutrition is a very individualized thing but it does not have to be complex. There are a lot of specialized diets, tips, and tools that you can use to plan your meals and keep track of your nutrition. The problem with those is that they are not going to work for everyone and it’s hard to decide what is going to work for you if you don’t have a baseline going in. Instead of adapting your entire life to a diet program that may not work, your best bet is going to be to get educated and use what you learn to figure out what you need.
In this infographic, you’re going to learn the basics of nutrition and how to apply them to your workouts and your fitness journey based on your individual goals.
If you’re trying to lose weight, then you need to be in what is called a calorie deficit. This means that you should be consuming fewer calories than it would take to sustain your weight. Typically, a deficit of 500 calories a day is what is necessary for sustainable weight loss at a rate of one pound per week.
If you’re trying to maintain your current weight, then you need to consume a maintenance amount of calories. This means that you should be consuming about as many calories as you’re regularly burning to make sure that you don’t lose or gain any weight. Typically, the standard daily caloric intake for adults is 2,000 calories.
If you’re trying to gain weight or put on muscle, then you need to consume a surplus of calories. This means that you’re eating more calories than you’re regularly burning to make sure that you are eating enough to support the weight gain or muscle gain that you’re shooting for. A typical calorie surplus is about 500 calories, which would result in four or 5 pounds gained per month.
Tip: Everyone is going to have different caloric needs, these are just the averages. You should use a calculator or consult a healthcare professional or license nutritionist to determine the amount of calories that you should be eating for your body type and goals!
Drinking enough water is critical for your health and it is especially important if you’re someone that works out regularly. Making sure that you’re drinking enough helps ensure that you’re not going to be dehydrated, which can help with water retention and muscle recovery. The old “eight cups a day” is tired and doesn’t work for everyone! Instead, you should follow this equation to figure out how much water you should be drinking each day.
Tip: If you’re not comfortable with the metric system, you can divide your weight in pounds in half to get a rough estimate of how many ounces of water you should have instead!
Macronutrients are often just referred to as “macros.” Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are all macronutrients. Your body needs more of these than any other type of nutrient in order to function properly and to fuel your body during workouts. The amount of each one that you need is going to vary based on your body and your fitness goals.
Good sources of protein:
- Nuts or Nut Butters
Before a Workout:
- Amino acids help reduce muscle damage
- Helps stabilize blood sugar for sustained energy
- Helps maintain or increase muscle size
After a Workout:
- Promotes muscle repair and recovery
- Can help fight off soreness after a workout
- Replaces important amino acids burned during a workout
Protein does not provide your body with important fuel for energy during a workout but it is still very important. All of your muscles and many of your organs are made up of protein. During a workout, little tears appear in your muscles. Eating adequate protein gives your body what it needs to repair these tears and help your body recover. Protein is also essential to those of you who are trying to build muscle in your workouts.
Good sources of carbohydrates:
- Whole Grains
- Starchy Vegetables
Before a Workout:
- Gives your body the energy you need to workout
- Preserves glycogen to make sure your brain knows you’re not hungry
- Prompts your body to release insulin, which helps your body use protein
After a Workout:
- Helps keep your insulin levels up to promote recovery
- Restores glycogen, the primary energy source for your body
- Replaces the carbs and electrolytes you burned while exercising
Carbs are the primary fuel source for your body and they are what give you all of your energy. If you don’t consume enough carbs, you can feel tired and it can be harder for your body to recover after a workout. In fact, carbs are what provide your central nervous system with all of its energy, so they’re very important. Complex carbohydrates are best because simple carbs can spike your blood sugar too high or could be stored as fat in your body.
Good sources of fats:
- Nuts and Seeds
- Oils (on salads or in cooking)
Your body needs fat to help it break down micronutrients. It also helps with creating energy stores in the body and protecting your vital organs. A balanced diet that includes healthy fats is absolutely necessary to keep you healthy and to make sure that you’re getting all of the necessary nutrients to fuel your body during your workouts and the recovery process.
The amount of each macro that you need is going to differ based on your specific workout goals. If you’re a long-distance runner or doing longer and more intense training sessions, then you’re going to need more carbs to help fuel your body over a longer period. If you’re going to be doing a hard-hitting strength training session, more protein could help you to gain muscle. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you calculate your macros based on your goals. There are even special diets like Keto and Slow-Carb that outline what your macros should be.
The important thing to remember is that controlling your portions and keeping an eye on your macros is going to help drive your success regardless of what you’re trying to achieve with your workouts. As an example, consuming too many grams of carbs could lead to them being stored as fat in the body instead of being used for fuel.
Micronutrients are sometimes shortened just to “micros.” These are nutrients that your body still needs but doesn’t need as much of each one. Making sure that your diet is balanced with healthy fats helps make sure that you get enough of these. Vitamins and minerals are all micronutrients and each one is responsible for something different in the body.
They are responsible for:
- Supporting bone and muscle growth
- Supporting the brain and central nervous system
- Providing you with antioxidants to stay healthy
- Vitamins B6 and B12
- Vitamin A
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
Supplements are something that a lot of people worry about when it comes to workout nutrition. Most of the time, they are used when you’re not getting enough micronutrients from your regular diet. Typically, you won’t need them when you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet. Some supplements like BCAAs and Creatine are used to help boost recovery and increase energy during a workout. Before using any supplements, you should talk to a health professional and do plenty of research.
Some people consider replacing electrolytes as a type of supplement after a workout. Electrolytes are the salt and sugar that are lost when you’re sweating. If you have a high-intensity workout and sweat a lot, then you need to make sure you’re replacing electrolytes with something like a sports drink. Shorter and less intense workouts will not require the same kind of replenishment during or after.
When you are working out for a longer period, you may find that having snacks ready to go during a workout can help keep you fueled. A quick snack before a workout is not likely to provide you with any extra energy, but will help boost your blood sugar and getting some nutrients in your body during longer workouts may be beneficial.
Usually, workout snacks should be rich in carbohydrates to make sure that they’re providing your body with essential energy. Some good snack ideas include:
- Granola Bars
- Easy fruit like bananas or apples
- Whole grain bagels
- Sports drinks
EATING BEFORE A WORKOUT
One thing to keep in mind is that you should never skip meals. It is normal for people to think that if they eat less that they will burn more fat or calories but this is not the case. Making sure that you have proper nutrition is critical for any workout plan. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re eating according to your preferences and needs!
2-3 Hours Before
This is better if you like to eat larger meals. You have plenty of time to digest so you should consume a mixed meal that consists of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and a small portion of fat dense foods. This type of meal will make sure that you have the fuel you need for your workout and will help keep you satiated. It’s important for protein to have time to break down in order for it to be beneficial for your workout.
60-90 Minutes Before
This is better for those of you who like to eat smaller meals. This is also better if you’re someone who is worried about getting hungry during a workout. The only problem you may run into is that there is less time for you to digest when you eat so close to a workout. So, with this option, you may want to have a smoothie or something easier to digest.
EATING FOR YOUR GOALS
Another thing that you have to think about when it comes to workout nutrition is your goals. As you read earlier, each macronutrient that you consume is going to play a different role in the body. Someone who is trying to build muscle is going to have different dietary needs than someone who is trying to lose fat.
- For cardio or other aerobic exercises
- Should be a smaller meal closer to your workout
- Should be higher in carbs to fuel you for a longer workout
- Should also be low in fat and sugar
- For strength training or other anaerobic exercises
- Should be a larger meal further away from your workout
- Should be high in protein to fuel your muscles to grow and repair
- Should be balanced so you have carbs for more energy
THE RECOVERY WINDOW
Eating after your workout is very important because it helps your body to replenish its energy stores (glycogen), helps decrease the breakdown of protein (to help muscles grow), and to increase the synthesis of protein (to repair damage and help your muscles recover).
- Time: Experts say that this window can vary between 30 minutes after working out up to 2 hours after working out. The sooner you eat, the better. Even if you’re not hungry, you should have a little snack.
- Carbs: Eating simple carbohydrates after a workout, particularly in the recovery window, helps your body to replenish its energy faster. Also, simple carbs will boost your insulin, which can carry nutrients to your muscles faster to aid in recovery.
- Protein: Something like a protein shake that is easier to digest will help get the protein into your system faster. Making sure your body gets a healthy dose of protein can help protect your muscles from damage and reduce your overall recovery time.
THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
The Glycemic Index, sometimes called a “Glycemic Load” refers to how much a particular food is going to impact your blood sugar. Insulin helps carry nutrients to your muscles so it is necessary for you to have some insulin in your body, especially after a workout. Keeping your blood sugar level also helps sustain your energy throughout the day and having too much insulin can prompt your body to store fat when you don’t want it to.
High Glycemic Foods
These foods are digested faster and cause your blood sugar to spike up and then drop, which can make you sleepy. Most simple carbohydrates like white rice, fruits, candy, and soda are ranked high on the GI Scale. It is better to consume these foods after a workout. Consuming them with a protein can help keep your blood sugar more level because protein slows digestion.
Low Glycemic Foods
These foods are digested slower and produce a more gradual rise in your blood sugar levels, which will keep your insulin more even. Apples, beans, mushrooms, broccoli, and peppers are all foods that rank low on the GI Scale. Eating these foods before a workout can help keep your blood sugar even through a workout and they take longer for your body to break down. Because carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body, these can help sustain you better throughout a workout.
Nourishing your body properly during a workout is essential to make sure that you are healthy and meeting your goals. However, with the information in this quick guide, you are now equipped to make better decisions about how you fuel your workouts and how you fuel your body in general. Remember to check in with your body and make adjustments as needed to sustain your success.
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