You Are What You Eat – How to fuel, and refuel, your workout
Leggings – check, sports bra – check, water bottle – check, but wait – did you pack food? Are you fueling, and recovering with nutrition as part of your exercise routine? We all know the saying ‘abs are made in the kitchen’, and your entire diet should be just as important as which exercise class you choose. But proper nutrition pre-and-post workout can truly maximize all the effort you’re putting into class – and who doesn’t want that, right?
There are the more obvious reasons that you shouldn’t opt-out of your pre-workout snack or meal, like dizziness, lethargy, nausea, and even the potential to be more prone to injury. But even if these things don’t plague you, skipping out on food can reduce your performance, and ultimately reduce your exercise gains. So, where do you start?
Repeat after me. Carbs are OK. Especially before you break a sweat. Carbs break down into glucose, providing you the energy and endurance you need to exercise at your maximum capacity. Opt for simple carbs that break down quickly to give you that energy boost. Great options include: a piece of fruit, oatmeal, greek yogurt, a handful of dried fruit or crackers, or toast. When you perform resistance or strength training, like Neighborhood Barre classes, adding a little bit of protein is important for muscle recovery. Again choose easily digestible protein so you don’t feel weighed down (no pun intended), during your workout. Solid choices are a handful of nuts, again greek yogurt (hint hint), a hard-boiled egg, or protein-rich milk.
So when should you eat before, and after your workout? Shoot for anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours before you exercise. You may have to experiment to see what amount of time works best for your body. For example, if you’re an early-bird exerciser, you may not want to (or have the time to) eat a whole meal before you hit the studio. Try a mini-snack, or shoot for a protein-packed smoothie, where you drink half before class, and half after. If you exercise later in the day, either 1) have a 150 calorie snack pre-workout, or 2) you may be ok to power through if you’ve had a well-balanced meal within 2-3 hours of your workout.
Lastly, hydration is of course key to your workout performance, and recovery. Aim to drink about one cup of water 10-20 minutes pre-workout, to avoid low energy and muscle cramps or spasms. Consider drinking another cup during your workout to stay properly fueled, especially if you’re sweating profusely. And lastly, drink two cups post-workout to replenish the fluids you lost.
So you’re done – now what? You need to eat after your workout. Period. You’re not only inhibiting your body’s ability to repair itself, but if you skip eating after your workout routinely, it will be harder for you to reach your fitness goals. Ideally, refuel within 30 minutes of your workout. Your post-workout food of choice should be high in complex carbohydrates, and more importantly loaded with healthy protein. Here’s the issue – it’s really easy to over-compensate on the calorie count. You don’t want to necessarily eat more calories than you just burned! So skip the energy drinks, bars, or sugary smoothies. Again think about 150 calories if it’s a snack, or under 500 calories if you’re headed straight to meal time. Snack-wise, think whole-grain crackers or toast with nut butter, 2 hard-boiled eggs and toast, or a cup of chocolate milk.
We’d love for you to share your fave healthy snacks with us! Tag us in your social posts where you’re fueling or hydrating pre/post barre class, or use the hashtag #nbbarrefuel.