We all know that every workout counts, and the energy you can bring to your workout will determine how effective your workout is – at increasing your fitness level, burning fat and burning calories. That is why it’s so important to ensure that we’re adequately hydrated before our workout AND that we provide our bodies with enough of the right fuel to help us push our hardest.
What to drink:
Sports drinks a are multi-billion dollar industry, and they pour lots of money into convincing us of the importance of hydration. But do sports drinks really help your workouts? Most of us know by now that high-carbohydrate sports drinks like Gatorade contain plenty of calories – enough to replace the calories we burn during our workouts. If our goal is to lose weight or create a calorie deficit, this is NOT what we want. For competitive athletes who struggle to eat ENOUGH calories during the day, these drinks may have their place. But for the majority of us who want to achieve fitness rather than compete, the extra carbs probably aren’t necessary.
But what about electrolytes? Electrolytes are salts, and we do lose salts when we sweat. Most sports drinks contain sodium, and often only about 5% of a person’s daily recommended intake. Since the average person gets more than enough sodium in their diet, adding additional electrolytes isn’t necessary. Also, while it’s true that you lose salts during your workouts, you’d have to be working out hard for 3 – 5 hours (like running a marathon) to use up your body’s stores of these minerals.
The best choice for hydration pre and post workout is the obvious choice. Stick with good old H2O. Plan to drink about 20 oz of water 1 – 2 hours before your workout. Then replenish your fluids afterward by continuing to drink water. No need to overdo it though – let your thirst be your guide. Another good indicator is your urine – if it’s super yellow hydrate yourself.
What to eat:
Eating the right snack before a workout can give you the fuel to work to your optimum, so you’ll see the benefits of your hard work.
Big meals take a few hours to digest and convert to energy, whereas a smaller snack of about 100 – 300 calories takes about an hour. So, have a small nutritionally-balanced snack about an hour before your workout, and it will give you the energy you need. Try not to eat TOO much or TOO close to your workout time or you may end up with stomach pain.
Choose snacks that are a good mixture of complex carbs and proteins. Definitely avoid refined sugars and white carbs, instead opting for complex carbs, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which will take longer to convert to glucose and keep your blood sugar levels consistent throughout your workout.
Include some protein in your snack to help prevent the body from breaking down muscle for fuel and to help your muscles get a head start on recovery after exercise. The protein will also help keep you feeling full.
Here are a few great, balanced pre-workout snack options:
- An apple with a tbsp. of peanut butter. This is also my favorite go-to snack if I’m having a sweet craving and don’t want to slip up. It tastes like dessert!
- Canned tuna in water on top of fresh salad. Include a little bit of grated carrot or sunflower seeds to spice it up. Drizzle with a little olive oil and vinegar if you need, but I often find the tuna is flavor enough. Hate tuna? Substitute hummus or cottage cheese.
- A banana and a few almonds. Need to grab a snack on the go? This one is perfect!
- Cottage cheese and strawberries or peaches. Super tasty and another great option for sweets cravings.
- Sugar-free, low fat plain yogurt with a little fruit.
- A blended smoothie with protein powder that you make at home. Be careful of the mall smoothies that can be packed with calories, refined sugar or other ingredients you may not know about.
Want to know the best ways to combine complex carbs and proteins in your meals? The Athlean-XX for Women program’s Nutrition Plan will show you the way. It’s a flexible plan – you can follow our set meal plan or make up your own based on our recommendations. We promise that these nutrition guidelines are designed to give you the energy to help you get through a hard-core workout, and NOT be left feeling hungry. Speaking of hard-core workouts, how does just 30 hard-core minutes per day sound?? Try it out – believe it or not, 30 minutes IS enough to get your body in the best shape of your life!