Heading out the door to your Fitness Together session with your trainer, you run down your mental checklist of necessities: water bottle, shoes, gym bag. Thinking you might get a little hungry, you grab a quick handful of grapes or some string cheese (no carbs, thank you very much), and out you go.
When you’re involved in an exercise program, it’s easy to laser-point focus on the cardio, strength-training and stretching activities. You watch, hawk-like, the effects your efforts have on your waistline, scale numbers, and muscle definition. In doing so, you can sometimes gloss over exercise’s crucial cousins, pre- and post-workout nutrition.
Before your sweat-session, carbohydrates are a great snack option. This often-villainized food group works to properly fuel your muscles. Carbohydrates get stored as glycogen, which your body calls on to endure through that last set of reps, or final cardio sprint. When the glycogen is depleted, you feel fatigued and don't get as great as a workout as you could if you fuel with carbs.
It’s also a good idea to have some caffeine before your workout, for the little extra lift and energy it can provide. Don’t run out for handfuls of tiny bottles of caffeine mega-doses, promising to keep you wired for hours, however. Too much caffeine can make you jittery, nervous, and even nauseated – NOT a great addition to your session with your trainer. It might take some trial and error to find the right amount of caffeine to make your workout seem just a little easier. Opt for tea instead of coffee, as it adds a small amount of caffeine, compared to coffee.
Vitamin C is also a great idea for both before and after your session. When you give a workout your all, your body undergoes quite a bit of metabolic stress. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, known to help the body deal with stress, whether physical, mental or emotional. With a couple of doses of vitamin C running through your body, you get the added bonus of boosting your immune system at the same time.
A great post-workout choice is a tall glass of milk. This drink happens to have a near-perfect balance of the protein and carbohydrates necessary to rebuild your muscles. It also contains an impressive laundry-list of other nutrients your recovering body needs, including casein, electrolytes, water, calcium, whey, and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, packing your body with high-protein foods such as grilled chicken or roasted turkey is always a great idea to replace calories and allow your muscles to rebuild what you just shredded apart. Choose the leaner, low-fat options of these meats for better results. Don’t shy away from carbs in your post-workout meals; just be mindful of the number of carbs you are taking in. Carbs will help replace what you just burned and provide energy for your body to continue burning all day, but lean protein is what your body really needs in order to re-build muscle.
If you pay a little attention to what you put into your body, you’ll be happily surprised at what you can get out of your body during, and after, your workout.