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How You Should Eat To Fuel Your Workouts

Whether your goal is muscle gain or weight loss and whether your priority is achieving peak performance or achieving optimal visual results, if you’re serious about your fitness regimen, then putting in the effort to fuel your body with the right food is at least half the battle.


And it isn’t quite as simple as calories in versus calories out. While some people might be tempted to think of their workouts as ways to “afford” or compensate for unhealthy junk food, a healthier mindset might be to think about post-workout meals as an important opportunity to refuel your body with the nutrients it needs for recovery.

Having the right kind of calories at the right times in relation to your workout is also an essential part of the equation. However, factors of timing may not be as important if you are currently on the keto diet, and therefore using ketones rather than glucose for energy, providing your body with more stable fuel over time.

For others, though, while a morning workout lasting no longer than sixty minutes might be OK to undertake on an empty stomach, in general, you’ll want to fuel up before you hit the gym. You’ll also want to wait three or four hours after a major meal to avoid any digestive discomfort you might experience if you try working out with a full stomach.

You would do well to make that meal a balanced one that incorporates fats and fiber for satiety, lean protein to fuel your muscles, and complex carbohydrates, which are carbohydrates that contain three or more different types of sugars. These complex carbohydrates are slower to digest than simple sugars, and will help stabilize your blood sugar by providing a constant flow of energy rather than a quick rush and subsequent crash.

However, if you only have an hour or two before your workout, it might be better to go with a small, easy to digest snack instead, ideally one that contains a decent amount of carbohydrates and perhaps a moderate amount of protein with less fat and fiber, since those nutrients take more time for your body to process. If you only have a few minutes, even protein may be too much for your system, so you’d want to go with something more like a piece of fruit.

For a long, intense workout (eg, a long run lasting more than an hour) you may want to keep your glucose levels up during the activity as well by sipping juice or sneaking in another simple carb snack. Then, when it comes to a post-workout meal or snack, protein is your most important element. Since it is directly involved in muscle repair, you’d ideally want to consume some within 30 to 60 minutes after your workout ends.

Other research also shows that incorporating protein throughout the day (eg, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner instead of only in one meal) can also encourage optimal muscle building.

Carbohydrates after an intense workout are also important to prevent muscle breakdown and replenish glycogen stores. Since exercise can sometimes lower blood sugar, refueling with carbs may also prevent a blood sugar crash.

The precise balance of these foods that would be optimal for you depends on your weight and calorie intake, but it can also be affected by how you plan on working out: for example, cardio might require more simple carbohydrates as fuel and weight lifting may require more protein before and after. However, one broad rule of thumb some experts suggest for post-workout recovery is a meal containing 15 to 25 grams of protein and 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate.

Finally, while something like a packaged protein shake could be a convenient option for a quick post-workout refuel, whole foods are generally preferable to supplements since they will also provide your body with the micronutrients and antioxidants it needs to function as its best.

Food isn’t all there is to it, though; you also need to remember to drink enough water, both throughout your day and directly before your workout. You can start with sixteen to twenty ounces of water four hours before exercise, eight to twelve more ounces ten to fifteen minutes before, and another sixteen ounces afterward. Incorporating water-rich food like fruit into your snack or meal can also help you stay hydrated.

If all of this nutritional calculus sounds a little overwhelming, no need to fret. By signing up for one of Power Life Meals’ keto or traditional meal plans, you’ll be able to sign up to receive up to three optimally balanced meals a day on five days a week. That way, you’ll be able to save more of your time and energy for the important stuff; your workouts!